Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo were a French duo known as Daft Punk whose sci-fi aesthetic and euphoric sense of pop transformed electronic dance music.They were quite possibly two of the most influential musicians of 21st century. Their resurrection of disco, soft rock and 80s R&B brought spectacle to the world of dance music, changing the course of pop music over and over again
The split was announced yesterday in their inimitable enigmatic style with a video on their YouTube channel entitled Epilogue, which featured a scene from their 2006 film Electroma. In the video, the pair bid each other farewell in a desert before one of them walks away and the other one self-destructs.
The breakup marks the end of a 28-year partnership between the two, who formed in Paris in 1993 having previously played together in the rock band Darlin. That group’s work had been disparagingly described as a “daft punky thrash” in a Melody Maker review, handily providing the twosome with the name of their next project.
Powered by the infectious UK Top 10 singles Da Funk and Around the World, they released their debut album Homework in 1997, which also reached the UK Top 10.
The pair were rarely pictured together or in their music videos, which were impressive high-concept affairs. But for the second album, Discovery, in 2001, they debuted what became their enduring public image: a pair of masked robots. The pair became the biggest stars of the “French Touch” dance music scene.
Their third album, Human After All (2005), was slightly less well received, but it formed the backbone of one the most critically acclaimed live shows in history, featuring the pair playing from a giant illuminated pyramid which debuted at Coachella in 2006. Performances from the subsequent world tour formed their second live album, Alive 2007, following on from Alive 1997 a decade earlier, which was recorded at a Birmingham nightclub.
Their biggest hit was Get Lucky, which was a worldwide No 1, featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers. It was the lead single from their fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, released later that year, which featured other notable collaborations.
In 2016, they produced the title track of the Weeknd’s hit album Starboy – which became their first US No 1 single – as well as the album’s closing track, I Feel it Coming. Their production skills were courted by other stars, including Kanye West, who sampled Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger for his hit single Stronger before recruiting them to co-produce four tracks from 2013 album Yeezus.
Daft Punk were nominated for 12 Grammy awards, of which they won six. Four of those wins came in 2013 for Random Access Memories and Get Lucky, including record and album of the year.
The duo were also involved in a number of film projects. Electroma (2006) was a sci-fi film directed and written by the pair about two robots who attempt to pass as humans. It was premiered in the Director’s Fortnight section of the Cannes film festival.
They also wrote and produced Interstella 5555, an anime film to accompany the release of Discovery, and provided the soundtrack to Tron: Legacy (2010), as well as briefly appearing in the film.
The duo will be sadly missed and I can only hope that they’ll re-appear in another guise!