WORDS: NICK GORDON BROWN
A celebration of some of the key DJs and artists who have fused disco, house and so much more to create an inspirational soundtrack for open minded dancefloors.
The familiar strains of Going Back To My Roots envelop the crowd like a warm blanket. A timeless, unifying track, it’s the perfect set opener. “Zippin’ up my boots…” – dancefloor onside, let’s get this party started. The selections come from all corners of the globe, predominantly from the 1970s/80s, but frequently in versions fine-tuned for right now. Contemporary tracks are slipped in, but must match the vibe and authenticity of the older material. A bond established with the crowd, time for some fun, in the shape of the Mighty Mouse re-work of Abba’s Gimme Gimme Gimme. Mayhem ensues. From here, Folamour knows he can take the crowd wherever he likes, and they will stay with him.
Glitterbox at Hi, Ibiza. Honey Dijon has been moving smoothly and seamlessly, but never predictably, between genres and eras. Where to go next? What will capture the mood and bottle it? The inimitable opening piano chords of Soft House Company’s What You Need (disco-influenced vintage Italo house) tumble from the speakers – for some of the crowd, it’s like meeting up unexpectedly with an old friend; for others, it’s like being introduced to a new soul mate for the first time. Either way, euphoria. Honey then transports us effortlessly straight into the heart of 2019, with a floor-friendly mix of Lizzo’s Juice.
The sounds and styles of Folamour and Honey Dijon may be very different, but there is a shared DJ DNA: there’s so much great music out there, I want to find it and share it with you. It’s a DNA that fuels 2019’s most discerning dancefloors. 40 years after the abomination that was Disco Demolition Night tried to crush disco at its commercial peak, the inclusivity, diversity, edginess, flamboyance and freedom of expression it celebrated has won the day. Here we employ the Six Degrees of Separation theory to join the genre & era dots; celebrate the intertwining of disco, house and more; and revel in a bevy of uplifting tracks, edits and mixes from a motley crew of multi-talented DJs and producers.
Six of the Best
Daft Punk may transcend all attempts at musical categorisation, but the debut album Homework which laid the foundation for their success is rooted in a mastery of house music (not to mention an appreciation of its roots, as evidenced on Teachers). It also afforded us the first glimpse of their love of disco, not just in the flyer for Chic featured in the ‘bedroom wall’ artwork, but also in tracks like Around The World and our choice here, Burnin’, with its fluid scale-riding bassline, syndrum snatches and subtle Bar-Kays guitar sample (see which house music deities you can spot in the video).
Daft Punk would of course team up with Chic’s Nile Rodgers for 2013’s ubiquitous Get Lucky, and Chic are never far from the world’s dancefloors, be it in remixed, edited or sampled form. Our next two selections both use 1978’s I Want Your Love as a springboard.
In 2009, Norway’s Todd Terje was a rising start of the re-edit scene. The opening two minutes of his much-heralded Chic reinterpretation owe more than a little to Moodymann (see below), before morphing into the more familiar sounds of the Rodgers / Edwards original.
Detroit legend Kenny Dixon Jr, better known as Moodymann, had expertly put the same cut through the blender in 1996, just as so-called nu disco was putting its head above the parapet. A hypnotic masterpiece.
Dan Shake was famously the first artist from outside of Detroit to be signed by Moodymann’s Mahogani Music label in 2014, a reward for his having the confidence to thrust a demo CD into his hand at a gig. Five years on, Dan is clocking up both the air miles due to the demand for his DJing; and the studio hours as he consistently drops dancefloor bombs. Whether at the mixing desk or behind the decks, he has an unerring knack of blending myriad influences into a floorshakingly cohesive whole, as evidenced on current piledriver Bert’s Groove.
Dan is one of a number of artists to have contributed to Marcel Vogel’s cult label Lumberjacks in Hell (with the wonderfully named Shake’s On A Plane). This leads us to a scene veteran who is still at the top of his game, Baltimore’s Karizma. Our selection from 2017 comes from his EP released in tandem with label boss Vogel – Work It Out is a gospel house stormer.
Karizma, of course, is inextricably linked with DJ Spen through their time with seminal 1990s crew Basement Boys, and on the occasions when they choose to work together, the buzz is still tangible. However, both possess CVs as solo producers that would be the envy of many. Spen has been a fixture on dancefloors this summer with the supreme John Morales mix of his Philly-styled Wish I Didn’t Miss you on his Quantize imprint.
The term nu disco was first coined in the mid-1990s as a catch all for the plethora of disco inflected contemporary house tracks that were consciously going against the grain of the increasingly formulaic sounds of the time. One label that was happily going out on a limb was the influential Nuphonic. Standard bearers for the label included Faze Action, whose debut release was appropriately entitled Original Disco Motion. Sublime and sample free, arguably it set the nu disco template.
Like many of our other featured artists, Faze Action are still a staple of contemporary dancefloors. Releases are now via their own label (also called Faze Action), the latest being Andromeda Orchestra’s Don’t Stop, replete with this epic reworking from long time disco maverick Ray Mang.
Both Mang and Faze Action are contemporaries of London’s original disco devotee Dave Lee, aka Joey Negro (in 2018 Faze Action compiled a memorable edition of the crate digging Under The Influence compilation series on Lee’s Z Records). As DJ, producer, remixer, editor and curator, no one has done more to shine a contemporary light on disco than Dave (here you can check out when he gave Defected a tour of his record room). Well worthy of being highlighted twice over, our first choice is one of the most recently released Joey Negro remixes, which you will very likely have danced to this summer.
Can it get any more uplifting? Well yes, maybe it just can, as the second half of this selection of six proves. First up, disco house fusion doesn’t get much better than this – Romain & Danny Krivit at the controls, a Harold Melvin sample, vocals from Linda Clifford, all topped off with a Joey Negro remix.
Now well into his fifth disco decade, Danny Krivit, much like Dave Lee, juggles many plates, but it is perhaps as an editor that he is most renowned. A true master of the art of cutting & splicing, 2019 still finds him at the very top of his game, adding his inimitable touch to one of the year’s most loved tracks.
As all seasoned Defected / Glitterbox fans will know, one half of The Vision is another plate juggler who is pretty adept when it comes to creating edits of classics that hit the spot on contemporary dancefloors. There is no shortage of masterful Kon reworkings to choose from. His is one of the most inventive revisions available of Sylvester’s inimitable Mighty Real, but we have chosen another track from this member of disco royalty, which Kon turns into an exhilarating workout you’ll never want to end, despite it clocking in at close to 12 minutes.
The Joy of Six
In the early 1990s, regular multi track 12”s began to appear featuring cut & paste house tracks based round disco samples both familiar and obscure. Amongst the artists who forged themselves quite a reputation were Disco Elements, Jump Cutz and Hustlers Convention. So prolific were the Hustlers production team of Michael Gray and Jon Pearn, that with material stacking up awaiting release, their label Stress came up with the idea of releasing one of the tracks in the queue as a fake American import (at this time a shrinkwrapped 12” from the States still carried a lot of kudos worldwide). The scam worked, and (I Love) America blew up, with DJs wondering why they hadn’t heard of Full Intention before. Such was the success of America, that the Hustlers name was put to bed and Full Intention was prioritised. Several years before the likes of Groovejet and Salsoul Nugget, a vocal was added to the original sample-based track to help propel it into the pop charts. Full Intention quickly made a name for finely crafted remixes, notably on a number of Defected’s key early releases such as Powerhouse’s What You Need and Masters At Work’s To Be In Love.
The sample used to such great effect by Full Intention was from the disco hit of the same name by Patrick Juvet. Whilst Juvet hailed from Switzerland, the track was masterminded by French disco entrepreneur Henri Belolo, who was also the brains behind Village People. Belolo did much to shape the French disco scene which in turn would help lay foundations for the vibrant French house scene, much in the same way as Italo disco helped put an infrastructure in place that Italo house would later benefit from. One beneficiary was Dimitri From Paris, who coincidentally started his remix career with DJ only service DMC around the same time as Full Intention’s Michael Gray (then billed simply as Dimitri, as per this version of Candido’s Jingo). Alongside Joey Negro, Dimitri has become known as the leading exponent of impeccably arranged contemporary remixes of disco classics (such as last year’s Chic box set on Glitterbox), so here we have opted to focus on one of his original productions:
Parribean Disco is a highlight of the Folamour set with which we began our tale. It is therefore fitting that our next disco connection keeps the gallic flavour courtesy of one of Folamour’s own numbers. We have chosen Ivoire, which initially appeared on his Umami album. However, in the spirit of this feature, where we have highlighted numerous collaborations and reinventions, we showcase the remix by Austin Ato (like Folamour, a star turn at this year’s Defected Croatia festival).
Keeping with the Defected / Glitterbox favourites, any state of the nu disco nation summary in 2019 would be incomplete without the one man clubland hit machine that is Purple Disco Machine. You can find a quick refresher of some of Tino Piontek’s finest moments here. Here, we revive this meeting of exceptional German talents, old school meets new school courtesy of PDM and Boris Dlugosch:
Boris Dlugosch is, of course, synonymous with pioneering German house label Peppermint Jam, home of Mousse T. Like so many of our other featured artists, Mousse T is not only still going strong, but also teaming up regularly with new breed acts. Our second generation-straddling Germanic collaboration is his Disco Shizzle remix of Oliver Dollar & Nils Ohrmann’s gospel-infused standout John’s Church release on Classic.
We complete our journey with another Classic connection, returning to Honey Dijon. Her remix of Jayda G’s Stanley’s Get Down (No Parking on the DF) neatly encapsulates our this ain’t no disco theme. A meeting of like minds, two DJs with an innate understanding of where dance music has come from and where it can go. A track that nods to the past (Midnight Star’s No Parking on the Dancefloor – check the so 1980s video). Released on long time genre-trashing label Ninja Tune, in its original form it has a wonderfully mellow poolside vibe; remixed, it becomes an acid-tinged peak time monster.
In our house, we are all equal.