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*** DAFT PUNK "Discovery," Virgin

March 11, 2001|STEVE HOCHMAN

No one blurs the line between banality and art better than this French duo (no Jerry Lewis jokes, please). In the 1997 debut "Homework," Daft Punk boiled down '70s beats to pulsating minimalism, running the results through an array of effects to create extremely simple yet oddly fascinating wax-and-wane dynamics.

The formula is much the same on their second album (due Tuesday), but on top of the beats, Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem Christo now make melody--and a new sense of emotion--the focus.

The celebratory opener "One More Time," already an international club hit, uses the Vocodor--the ripest of current pop cheese gimmicks and one heard too often on this album--to mechanize guest Romanthony's singing. Yet when the thumping beat melts away mid-song for an extended floating break, the voice takes on a sense of yearning.

It's still minimalist. It's still dance music. It still revels in the banal. Much is recycled, from the running contrast of mechanical and emotional to the upgraded compositional craft--the instrumental "Short Circuit" echoes Herbie Hancock's "Rock It," and "Face to Face," with vocals by guest Todd Edwards, is part Brothers Johnson, part robotic Prince.

But it's also still art. And more than on the debut, there are human hearts behind the music. There's nothing banal about that.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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