Who still listens to Little Anthony and the Imperials? Fans of Daft Punk, and perhaps without knowing it: the track “Crescendolls” by the Parisian duo includes, in fact, a sample from Can You Imagine, released in 1977 by the New York soul, rhythm & blues group. On numerous occasions in their careers, Daft Punk, who announced their split on February 22, have resorted to sampling – or sampling other people’s music – to make some of their greatest hits. Since its invention, this technique has attracted a slew of criticisms for its supposed lack of creativity, which did not spare the popes of the French touch.

Read also: “The whole magic of Daft Punk is that they play the role of smugglers with great poetry”

Some borrowings from the helmeted duo are very obvious, as on Robot Rock, which takes again almost as it is the introduction of Release the Beast, a Breakwater track released on the album Splashdown in 1980. But all the nuance is in the “almost”, explains the specialist journalist Brice Miclet, author of Sample! The origins of hip-hop sound (The Word and the rest, 2018):

“If you listen to the beginning of their song, you can hear them rearranging the introduction by isolating the drum tom rolls and repeating them, then doing the same with a guitar chord and then going on the main loop. The latter, even if it retains its overall structure, is still remixed, very subtle silences are added, it is modernized. “

According to the specialist, “Just the fact of finding a piece, of diverting it and doing something new with it is in itself an interesting artistic and technical process”. Also, Daft Punk-style sampling often goes further than in this example. The planetary tube One More Time thus uses a title by Eddie Johns, More Spell on You (1979), passed through the mill to the point of making it unrecognizable. It is not for nothing that we speak then, for this sophisticated sampling, of “chopping” – hash, in English. For Brice Miclet:

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“The technical side of ‘chopping’ is often seen as more noble than the single loop, but both have their interest. In the case of “One More Time”, we have several passages that are isolated, reorganized, extended, pitched – we change the pitch and speed exponentially… ”

This video explains the process well:

Another re-use as discreet as it is subtle can be heard in Fresh, the sixth track of Homework, the duo’s debut album released in 1997. It includes a barely perceptible sample of If You Leave Me Now, sung by Viola Wills in 1981. Irony of the story: at the time, it was already the cover of a track released by the group Chicago in 1977.

The whole Internet of “discologists” was moved, in May 2017, when the filiation had been revealed by Noriae, a user of the Soundcloud sound sharing site. It was, indeed, a small tour de force, since the part isolated by Daft Punk is a very short passage in which Viola Wills hardly sings. We can see it in this deconstruction due to yououtubeur RobClemz, spotted by the magazine Tsugi.

Confining then to the wink, the sample can be interpreted as a tribute to beloved sources: the second album of Daft Punk, in 2001, quotes several figures of the funk like Sister Sledge, Edwin Birdsong or George Duke. And maybe called Discovery to invite to the walk in a small sound encyclopedia.

Like an elevator return, sampling can also have the effect of relaunching the career of the original artist, or at least increasing his notoriety. “Even though he was no stranger, Edwin Birdsong got massive exposure after Daft Punk sampled Cola Bottle Baby on their title Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger “, recalls Brice Miclet. This loan is one of the most emblematic in the duo’s discography.

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The French Cerrone had, for his part, assured, near The Obs, that his hit “Supernature” (1977) is used in Veridis quo, the eleventh track of Discovery. This disco figure congratulated himself on it, assuring that “All these samples, in general, made that [ses] sounds have not aged ”. “The period of samples (…) associated me with a lot of success ”, he rejoiced in 2018 with Europe 1.

Finally, it remains to make the part of the sample, the inspiration and the coincidence. Things are sharper than it might seem, according to Brice Miclet: “The sample is defined by the fact that there is an original sound imprint that is sampled, transformed and reused. Inspiration, “coincidence”, resemblance, plagiarism, these are other notions, either legal, or artistic principles, or musical approaches, but they are not defined by technology. “

In 2013, a discussion had emerged on the Reddit forum, about Get Lucky, the Daft Punk hit on Random Access Memories (2013), in which some Internet users had seen a strong resemblance to a song by South Korean guitarist Zack Kim. The world reported at the time that, according to Bonnie Hayes, director of the composition department at Berklee College of Music in Boston, cited by the American edition of the daily Subway, the similarities that could be detected between the two titles were in fact common to thousands of pop songs. A way of suggesting that in musical matters novelty is rarely absolute.

Read also the press review: The separation of Daft Punk seen from abroad: “It is a collective mourning which transcends tastes, tribes, factions”


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