DAFT PUNK

Alive 2007

(EMI)

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In 1993, Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo attended a rave at the Euro Disney theme park outside of Paris. Techno hasn't been the same since.

On the duo's recent U.S. tour鈥攖heir first in 10 years鈥攊t was clear that Daft Punk learned a thing or two from old Uncle Walt. Their show, a sort of career-spanning Daft Punk megamix, was a massive spectacle of light and sound, with every element carefully constructed and synchronized to elicit maximum squealing glee.

Alive 2007, a sequel of sorts to Alive 1997, attempts to capture that experience. The album contains a live Daft Punk performance (recorded in Bercy, France, on June 14, 2007) and a bonus disc featuring a fan-shot video for "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" directed by Oliver "Brother of Michel" Gondry. The flat camcorder shots and quick cuts of the video aren't quite up to the task, but the music more than stands on its own.

For the tour, Daft Punk radically reedited their back catalog, adding jitters and jumps to familiar hooks, and more importantly, mapping out new combinations and mixes of classic tracks. "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" is more of all of those things with the stomping bass line and vocal hook (not to mention some unidentified synth squelches) of "Around the World" behind it. "One More Time" pops like champagne out of the bell toll of "Aerodynamic" before diving into the latter's gleaming guitar solo before one more elated chorus.

The first thing you hear on Alive 2007 is the crowd cheering; the audience's roar and hand claps are present throughout, echoing the peaks and filling in the breakdowns. The live show's most striking visual element may have been the flashing red words "ROBOT" and "HUMAN" on the enormous stage backdrop that, by the end of the show, turned into "HUMAN" and "TOGETHER." There's a utopian spirit behind Daft Punk's rave theme park, and listening to that roaring crowd and these anthemic songs, it's easy to believe a Daft Punk concert is the happiest (hardest, bestest, fastest, strongest) place on earth. ERIC GRANDY

SIGUR R脫S

Heima

Hvarf/Heim

(XL Recordings)

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The music of Icelandic post-rock collective Sigur R贸s pools in emulsified wells of melodic condensation and aerated instrumentation, a natural reflection of their homeland's actively percolating geothermal topography.

Sigur R贸s, much like the Cocteau Twins and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, have always operated in an empyrean realm of pitched quivers and foreign, glissando tongues, a fable redolent with yearning and fringed by a corona of sublimated guitar and blissful tension. But now, with a DVD and complementary CD鈥攃ollecting essentially two EPs on one disc鈥攖he core quartet and associates offer a partial glimpse of what burbles under the surface of this elfin disconnect, both physically and musically.

It speaks highly of Sigur R贸s that the natural details of Iceland peppered throughout the Heima DVD work to add to the group's earnest majesty, not divert the attention away from it. The film鈥攂y no means a historical "rock doc" so much as a series of impressions鈥攁bstractly chronicles a series of free concerts in distant and sometimes derelict locations throughout Iceland, and from the opening's montage of screen-printing T-shirts and calligraphy credits it is apparent that Sigur R贸s strives and succeeds to temper the trappings of professional musicianship with far more artisan qualities. Gravitas and gratitude imbue the scenery, both visually and sonically, with whimsy peeking through regularly (as in a rhubarb marimba, for example).

Hvarf/Heim (meaning roughly "Hidden"/"Home" or "Disappeared"/"Haven") is also a balancing act, this time of electric and acoustic performances. The first half features several never-before-released tracks and classics that have been reworked, and showcase everything from chromatic castoffs 脿 la David Gilmour to spooned silt (on the surprisingly straightforward rawker "Hlj贸malind"), also akin to Explosions in the Sky. New arrangements allow tracks such as "Von" to take on even more fluidity. The unplugged, string-laden presentations, meanwhile, become even more plaintive with their elongated resonances transposed from caverns to hearths. These huddled hearts make for a fine reintroduction of rarities. TONY WARE

KIM HIORTH脴Y

My Last Day

(Smalltown Supersound)

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Kim Hiorth酶y is a Norwegian artist, author, filmmaker, illustrator, and graphic designer, most notably for label Rune Grammofon. He also finds time to make records that range unpredictably from techno to ambient field recording鈥攕ometimes to the confusion of fans. My Last Day finds him splitting the difference, tacking touches of found sound to more kinetic tracks. As a producer, Hiorth酶y displays an attention to detail and tone that must come in handy in all his vocations鈥攈is songs are built out of layers of discrete loops that Hiorth酶y frequently adds, removes, and shifts between without ever losing track of a mood.

For all the variations in arrangement, the sonic palette of My Last Day is dominated by just a few sounds: clean acoustic pianos, filter-muffled drum breaks, brief snatches of faint vocal samples (the only intelligible grab is the incongruous "let's get buck naked and fuck" on the sentimental "Beats Mistake"), and the occasional sawing synth, as on "I Thought We Could Eat Friends," "Album," and "Alt G氓r S氓 Langsomt."

The two former tracks' upbeat 8-bit melodies are reminiscent of Daedelus at his most buoyant, while the downshifted vocals and minor keys of "Alt G氓r S氓 Langsomt" are markedly more ominous. Songs such as "Beats Mistake" and "Goodbye to Song" manage to be both catchy and fragmented. The nine-minute-long "Skuggen" gradually builds and breaks down again from desolate piano to slow, steaming, pneumatic pump.

Hiorth酶y often wavers between melancholy and upbeat within the same song, leaving the listener with the impression of a dark, cold, Northern European winter about to break, or just breaking, into spring. Yeah, it's mostly chill music, chill-out music even, but My Last Day is not without a warm pulse. ERIC GRANDY

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