When House Met Disco – A Guide

Posted: August 8th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: | No Comments »

As it was a continuation in the timeline of club music it is quite natural that via sampling the early years of house were already littered with references to what happened before: disco. Pioneering Chicago house records used vocal snippets of the classic repertoire of disco and replayed its basslines and arrangements. Just take Isaac Hayes’ „I Can’t Turn Around“ for example, which was not only used in Farley Jackmaster Funk’s „Love Can’t Turn Around“, but also numerous other house tracks at that time. And acapellas from the back catalogue of classic disco labels like Salsoul, Prelude or West End never stopped being used for giving a track that extra imperative on the floor. But as well as disco always remained an integral of house music’s matrix, particularly lesser productions means led to different approaches of utilizing it. From the mid 80s on, nearly no house producer could afford to set up an orchestra in a studio, also many were not trained to write and arrange music as many protagonists of the classic disco era were. Still, the desire to reference or recreate the disco legacy with a house groove was always there until today, and the ways with which disco and house connected were manfifold and innovative. We take a look at some prime examples.

Mitch Winthrop – Everybody’s Going Disco Crazy (Everybody’s Much Crazy Records, 1991)

I first heard this record at Hamburg’s Front club, where it was a total anthem. At the time most people were actually not disco crazy anymore, but this was a perfect reminder to never forget where it was all coming from.

Reese Project – Direct Me (Joey Negro Disco Blend Mix) (Network, 1991)

Dave Lee aka Joey Negro was one of the first house producers that were not content with only sampling disco elements, but who aimed for a production that came as close as possible to disco’s original production and arrangement values. His remix for Kevin Saunderson’s garage house project went all the way. Joey Negro had the knowledge and had paid close attention, and obviously his directive was to achieve anthemic euphoria, and as all was done with loving detail, straight to the syndrum pew pew pews, he proved himself to be a trustworthy ambassador of the disco heritage, and remained ever since.

Nature Boy – Tobago (Black Label, 1992)

Milo from Bristol’s legendary Wild Bunch soundsystem deconstructing disco source material down to dark and gritty netherworld. None of the glitz of the sample references survived the process, and the music seemed to rather kick you out into the back alley through the back door than sway you in through the velvet rope on the other side of the building. I found „Ruff Disco Volume One“ in a bargain bin in the early 90s and I think it still sounds totally visionary and unique.

Romanthony – In The Mix (Azuli Records, 1994)

A tribute to Tony Humphries and the whole New Jersey legacy by Romanthony, one of house music’s greatest producers ever. If there ever was a more convincing argument to never deny your roots and keep them alive in what you are doing, I would like to hear it.

Jump Cutz – House Luck (Luxury Service Records, 1995)

One of many highlights from the Jump Cutz series, produced by Rob Mello and Zaki Dee. This really shows that often a good disco house track is no rocket science. Deconstruct source material into several parts. Reconstruct said parts as you please. Watch them go.

The Morning Kids – Free Lovin’ (Housedream) (Balihu Records, 1996)

As a true disco lover and dancer, Daniel Wang knew that it is the early morning hours when the magic of a good night out really unfolds. A rather simplistic meditation based on just a few samples compared to his later vintage syntheziser led output, but it still works a treat if the DJ decides it is finally the right time to switch gear. When it was released, the balearic revival was just a few sunrises away.

Los Jugaderos – What You Doing To This Girl? (Jus’ Trax, 1996)

A rework of Dazzle’s „You Dazzle Me“ which is indeed dazzling. The well-proven disco evangelists Ashely Beedle and Phil Asher concentrate on building up the tension mesmerizingly and release the strings at exactly the right moment. A masterclass in structure.

Turntable Brothers – Get Ready (Music Plant, 1996)

There once was a seminal live recording archived on deephousepage.com that captured Ron Hardy whipping his floor into a frenzy with an extended reel-to-reel edit of Patti Labelle’s „Get Ready“. This Chicago label already carrries the legacy of two legendary windy city clubs in its name: the Muzic Box and the Warehouse (later Power Plant). So it should come as no suprise that most records on Music Plant are a straight homage, albeit with banging beats and the freewheelin’ demanour with the use of samples so typical for Chicago. „Get Ready“ skips the traditional verse part of the original and heads straight to the climactic chorus, then rides it far into ecstacy.

Moodymann – I Can’t Kick This Feelin’ When It Hits (KDJ, 1996)

If you play disco, never leave the house without a record made by the Chic Organization LTD. If you play house, the same applies. Kenny Dixon Jr knew.

Deep Sensation – Somehow, Somewhere (There’s A Soul Heaven) (Guidance Recordings, 1998)

Paul Hunter and Colin Gate appeared as Deep Sensation on several US and UK labels and established an approach to disco house that was clearly informed by the UK rare groove and rare soul circuit. In theory a trick they often used seemed simple: mount a distinctive vocal onto another, similarly distinctive tune and add some house danceability. But it is how immaculate they did this that really set them apart, particularly with the string of records they released on Guidance. Every track they did was so lovingly rearranged that it felt as if they hired a band plus orchestra and let loose in the studio, conducting the proceedings like the 70’s maestros never happened. Up to this day you can inject instant weekender credentials into every set you play with those releases, and lift every place up. Make sure that you check Paul Hunter’s several other aliases for even more gems.

Freestyle Orchestra – Twi-Lite (MAW Records, 1998)

Louie Vega reviving an old alias to include his better half Kenny Dope, probably so that he can supply his trademark beats for perfect measure. The totally tripping loop material is courtesy of unlikely disco converts The Manhattan Transfer, trading their usual jazzy croonage for a journey into the unknown. The track is a perfect example for how the consequent repetition of a perfect loop will eventually let your mind slip away.

Sound Stream – Motion (Sound Stream, 1999)

As a producer Frank Timm aka Sound Stream is a rare phenomenon. Unfazed by the otherwise hustling and bustling of the club music scene he releases tracks only when he thinks they are ripe, however long as that may take. Still, with every release he is right back on the map again. This may work because his tracks are continuously faultless if you like his sound, even if it has gradually evolved over the years. This track is from his first release, and established his agenda: isolate and loop a perfect moment in a piece of music, then construct a track with it, add your own signature beats and let it all rule.

Johnick Meets FTL – A Breath Of Fresh Air (Henry Street Mix) (West End Records, 2004)

Johnny D De Mairo and Nicholas Palermo Jr. aka Johnick were always devoted to reinterpreting disco, be it with Johnny D’s Henry Street label or with their own productions. They were especially gifted with reassembling and isolating original parts for a streetwise, deep and almost psychedelic vibe. This has a similar hypnotic quality, but it is first and foremost a perfect summer breeze of a track. Almost ten casually funky minutes float on an impeccable loop, inbetween lifted by a sophisticated flute solo.

Jasper Street Co. – Till I Found You (Basement Boys Records, 2004)

The Basement Boys camp from Baltimore is an ever reliable source for house with a disco stance. This jam sounds like a joyous church service, driven by a tight veteran jazz funk band that just fell in love with DJ culture. Totally loved up and totally infectious.

Phyllis Hyman – You Know How To Love (Dimitri From Paris Super Disco Blend) (Le-Edits Records, 2018)

Like Joey Negro, Dimitri From Paris is one of the most revered collectors of disco originals, and his history with editing disco for house purposes goes back so many years that he is frequently granted access to an ingredient that distinguishes his role as editor from those that just put a streamlined beat to a track for better mixability: multitracks. Of course if you have all the tracks of the original recording you can really show your skills as a producer and arranger. And even if purists may always prefer the original, a lot of Dimitri From Paris versions offered a quality level which was at least worthy of comparison. Within France’s long tradition of merging disco and house Dimitri From Paris obviously came from another school than the seminal heavy filter workouts once initiated by Daft Punk and their affiliates, but sometimes you just need some elegant swing, n’est-ce pas?

Electronic 08/18



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