Mar 05, 2009, 04:55AM

Disco That's Relevant in 2009

We're talking pre-ironic, coked-out real disco here. It gets pretty nasty.

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Hand it Over

The following audio was included in this article:

Dance With You

The following audio was included in this article:

Haven't You Heard

The following audio was included in this article:

Give Me Your Love

The following audio was included in this article:

How many articles on the merits of disco can any self-respecting music lover tolerate? I’d say probably two or three, which means that Splice is almost at its max. Good disco is a balancing act. The inherent cheesiness has to be offset by a danceable beat, nuanced musical arrangements, and a blistering horn section. Of course when I say “good” disco, I’m referring to the kind that retains any shred of relevance in 2009, songs that can still be played without cringing and might even light up a dance floor. From my experience mixing music in France, I can assure you that these songs do exist.    

My friend Jon and I are trying to cultivate our very own soul music DJ set during our limited time here in Montpellier. At our first gig, we noticed that the pure soul and mod sounds that inhabit most stateside and U.K. soul clubs failed to produce the same body-flailing enthusiasm as some of our electro cuts. I think this was due in part to the venue’s clientele and also because our French friends have a higher threshold for electronic sounds; they actually crave them. This made us explore more disco music than I’d like to admit. But some of our finds have elicited an overwhelmingly positive response and are now in heavy rotation, proving that disco not only bridges soul and electronic music, it sometimes sounds good doing it.

T.O.C Band “Hand It Over”

I don’t know anything about this band except for the fact that they seemingly recorded on their own label—T.O.C Records—and that this single was released in 1983. The intro to the song hits you with that guitar jangle and the crazy horn breakdown that’s begging to be sampled. It’s this next moment that usually makes or breaks the majority of disco tracks. Disco vocals tend to define whether a track is palatable or not. And they have killed many otherwise fine instrumentals. The vocal melodies on “Hand It Over” are fresh and actually improve on the song’s instrumentation. Just listen to the awesomeness of that two-tiered chorus. When the vocal coos peak alongside the horns and upbeat percussion you might even find yourself asking how this song is not actually Beyonce or Amerie.

Carl Carlton “Dance With You”

Detroit native Carl Carlton is a little-known legend in funk and disco circles. He began his career as “Little Carl” Carlton, capitalizing on his near identical vocal delivery to Stevie Wonder. Even if he didn’t prove to be a unique artist, he did posses a chameleon-like dexterity that spawned this classic number and this should-have-been classic. “Dance With You” is clearly in disco territory with the voice modulations and synthesizers. There’s also the lyrical subject matter that pretty much explains the song’s desired effect, from the opening line, “I’m hot, hot, hot, hot,” to the spouting standard dance-centric lingo like “…foxy lady drive me crazy!” in the verses.

Patrice Rushen “Haven’t You Heard” (Larry Levan Edit)

You’re already familiar with Patrice Rushen. But in addition to inspiring Will Smith, she has accomplished many other musical feats. She was the first female composer for the Grammy Awards, Emmy Awards, and the People’s Choice Awards. She won the Monterey Jazz Festival at age 18. Her background as a classical and jazz pianist is noticeable in a lot of her work and certainly in “Haven’t You Heard.” Legendary DJ Larry Levan barely tweaked the number but gives it some teeth and more gorgeous synth-strings.

Sylvia Striplin “Give Me Your Love”

This song by the sweet-voiced Sylvia Striplin is universally understood as one of the best songs to come out of the disco era. The two-line chorus just repeats and repeats. Meanwhile, while the musical elements continue to surge forward, the bass line slides up and down, urging body movement. Even though this track was released in 1980, don’t think for a second that this forward-thinking, string-swooping brand of disco is irrelevant today.

  • In many European counties disco and "nu-disco" are huge, even among self-respecting music lovers. Perhaps if there are that many articles on the merits of disco there might be something behind it. Whether or not you find the music relevant is personal and not generational. I think if you explored the genre more you'd find a lot more that's "good"--your current list is very limited.

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  • Hey Lina please don't take my "self-respecting music lover" line too seriously. I was just being facetious. I actually really like disco, otherwise I probably wouldn't waste anytime writing an article about a couple of my favorite disco songs. I will admit however that I originally came to it from more of a soul perspective than say those who enjoy it for its electronic merits or those who dig it for its lead up to Kurtis Blow era rap. Absolutely, disco is widely followed in Europe and in the US, although you'll have a harder time pinpointing all of the page space it's given in mainstream and alternative music press, save for several exceptions that clearly cop similar instrumentation or song structures such as this- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MBNyJlvdLY and this- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Lnt0DN2fBQ Also, these four songs only scratch the surface of what I enjoy about disco, they aren't meant to be taken as some sort of finalized list. Besides you can't leave off this- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt98AbNSDZQ or this- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsYIiZZXhFc&feature=related or this- http://djagge.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/a1-cool-it-vocal.mp3 And then of course we can talk about some of these "nu disco" djs and producers who create tight tracks like this- http://s212534378.onlinehome.fr/BAF-files/madein1985/louislaroche-getondown.mp3 as well as turn Sugar Hill Gang into this- http://www.imeem.com/nightcap/music/jZlmUAte/moulinex-lover-in-me/

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  • there came a point in the existence of disco when people just started putting out crap because it was still selling. i think this and the tendency to associate disco with the creme de la creme of mainstream survivors can largely justify someone completely writing off disco or self loathing one might feel. it would indeed be unfortunate for the person who writes off the genre for this reason, and these being some of my favorite songs as well, i think it's a pretty good window into what is fairly unknown as far as disco goes for most people.

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  • Ah, a self-loathing disco lover. The worst kind. You should revel in it! I've got an article coming up about my pilgrimages to the italo disco mecca. Watch this space

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  • first, im jealous that you're in montpellier. its a hot ass city. 2, french peeps LOVE their electro sounds, youre right. i guess thats why justice digitalism et al became so popular and stuff. the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album has some joints that hit to disco. i wonder if thats the next trend in hipster dance music? also...i love this sylvia striplin joint.

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