Skip to main content

Enter your email below to be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events, and more from Dig!

Please enter a valid email address

By submitting my information, I agree to receive personalized updates and marketing messages about WMX based on my information, interests, activities, website visits and device data and in accordance with the Privacy Policy. I understand that I can opt-out at any time by emailing privacypolicy@wmg.com.

Discovery: Remembering When The World Found Daft Punk
Seb Janiak
In Depth

Discovery: Remembering When The World Found Daft Punk

A cornerstone in dance music, ‘Discovery’ established Daft Punk’s trademark sound – and still sounds like nothing else on Earth.

Back

Two men are recording music at their home studio in Paris, France. It’s Thursday, 9 September 1999. The name of the studio is Daft House, and the men are Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo – aka Daft Punk. They’ve been up all night, picking apart every single detail of one track. It’s 9.09am and the regret of pulling an all-nighter really starts to settle in. As they play the track through one more time, a coffee gets spilled over a sampler. For a brief moment, the noise the sampler makes as it breaks sounds as if it could work in a different track. Both men put their ears closer to the hardware just as it explodes – they subsequently awake to a startling discovery: they are no longer human, but have become robots…

At least that’s the story Daft Punk gave to reporters ahead of the release of their second album, Discovery. And it acts as a fitting metaphor. If Daft Punk’s debut album, Homework, was the sound of raw material from within a sampler, then Discovery is the sound of that sampler exploding into life, ushering in a new era for both Daft Punk and dance music in general.

Listen to Discovery here.

A time for reinvention

Released on 12 March 2001, Discovery emerged at a time when fears over the Millennium Bug had subsided and a new world was there for the taking. It was a time for reinvention and bold new steps. It was a time Daft Punk to move into new territory.

Early in the recording process, Bangalter and De Homem-Christo decided to avoid making another album full of house tracks and began experimenting with musical styles and song structures. Flush with the fame Homework had given them, the duo also found themselves able to leverage collaborations with producers they’d always been fans of, including Todd Edwards and Romanthony, who helped further push the duo’s vision for Discovery.

Stravinsky supposedly said, “A good composer does not imitate; he steals.” If that’s true, then Daft Punk are some of the world’s best thieves. A step up from its predecessor in every way, Discovery is a much slicker album whose musical ambition is palpable from the off; using samples as their starting point for each track, Bangalter and De Homem-Christo layered live instrumentation on top until the original sample is almost unrecognisable.

A cornerstone in dance music

The enhanced production values and emphasis on live instrumentation helped Daft Punk move away from the house sound that had previously defined them, towards elements of disco, ambient, funk and electro R&B. This eclectic mix allowed them to focus more on lyrics and song structure – and, in turn, helped shape an overall theme for the album.

Discovery is believed to be a concept album. Bangalter and De Homem-Christo have suggested that it is a representation of their childhood, with varying themes and musical styles that are supposed to show how receptive we are to various influences as children before adulthood makes us more singular in our tastes. To support this, Daft Punk enlisted the help of Japanese anime artist Leiji Matsumoto to create the animated film Interstella 5555: The 5tory Of The 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, which links all the Discovery music together with a narrative.

In simple terms, Discovery is a cornerstone in dance music history. It pushed the envelope in every possible direction while introducing robot Daft Punk to the world and establishing their trademark sound. Brave and uncompromising, the album sounds as fresh as ever and has influenced a range of artists in a variety of genres.

But as these Discovery highlights show – nothing else has come close to recapturing that Daft Punk magic…

Discovery: the tracks you need to hear

One More Time

What else is there to say about One More Time? If this hasn’t been the peak of a night out or house party for you at some point, then you’re doing it all wrong. Arguably the best Daft Punk song of all time, it’s the one track that gets everyone briefly thinking it’s acceptable to put their hands in the air and point to the sky. Also, this is about as liberal as autotune got before T-Pain showed up on the scene.

Aerodynamic

An example of distorted arpeggiation at its best, Aerodynamic balances so many complicated elements that everyone else might as well give up. If you heard it performed by an orchestra, you’d be certain it had been part of the classical repertoire for centuries.

Digital Love

One of the earliest examples of Daft Punk really using Discovery to push their sound in a new direction, it’s hard to believe this is the same duo who made Homework’s Rollin’ & Scratchin’. Digital Love has the perfect use of samples and one of the best solos in music history.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Before Kanye West got his hands on it and the shutter-shades became a thing, Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger was the original dance-music staple. Robot voices at their most robotic, handclaps at their most gloriously crisp and one of the hardest-working cymbal sounds in music history, this one has it all…

Crescendolls

Tight drum machine programming paired with a synth bass that somehow manages to sound wet, Crescendolls combines Daft Punk’s early looping technique with punchy production for three and a half minutes of pure joy.

Something About Us

Another real shift from the other tracks on the album, Something About Us was the final single to be released from Discovery. It’s a song for the end of the night, whether you’re walking home with headphones in or lounging on the sofa when the party’s over.

Veridis Quo

With a melody that will stay in your head for months after you’ve heard it, Veridis Quo is a masterpiece. It’s also one of several occasions on the album where Daft Punk put the “disco” in “discovery”.

More Like This

Young Hearts Run Free: Behind Candi Staton’s Call For Gay Liberation
In Depth

Young Hearts Run Free: Behind Candi Staton’s Call For Gay Liberation

With her disco smash Young Hearts Run Free, Candi Staton took a personal trauma and turned it into a call for LGBTQ+ liberation.

Let’s Dance: How David Bowie Came Out Fighting For The Pop Crown
In Depth

Let’s Dance: How David Bowie Came Out Fighting For The Pop Crown

Looking to the mainstream with ‘Let’s Dance’, David Bowie scored his biggest-selling album while unleashing some of his most-loved songs.