On Defending Disco

Disco rules hard. When I say disco, I don’t want you thinking of Donna Summer and the Village People. They’ve got no funk, no real mojo. When I say disco, I’m strictly speaking of the kind of music that will get you out of your seat.Let me start out with some background about this music. Disco’s birth was in Europe, but it found a rich environment for its own evolution in New York and Philadelphia. Disco was a reaction by New York City’s gays, as well as black and Latino heterosexuals, against both the domination of rock and the demonization of dance music.

So how do we get from 1976 to 2010? Well, an album to check out for examples that reveal the uniform underlying tendencies of disco is SH-01. It was released in 1997 by Soundhack. Each of their 12”s focused on extracting loops from various disco tracks from 1978 through 1980. The tracks work very well as DJ tools for layering on top of other songs or for further distillation.

And there you have it: In a very well-articulated LP you can see the lineage from which Afrojack, Daft Punk, Hot Chip, A-track, Mr. Oizo, and Louis La Roche are coming. Of course, that doesn’t take into account melodic tendencies, but that’s because that defines what sub-genres a particular song will fall into. Those distinctions are what bring about deep-house, fidget house, and nü disco.

Let’s bust out of bounds for a while. Who’s hot on the dance floor these days? Skrillex. His latest release, Scary Monster & Nice Sprites, takes us one step closer to a genre-less music platform. His potent mixture of melodic progressions and deafening drops has allowed him to ravage the Beatport charts with dubstep chunes, which rarely ever chart. Check out the following two tracks. “What is Light, Where is Laughter (Skrillex Remix)” by Twin Atlantic serves as a good introduction to dubstep-infused drum to synth and indie rock lovers. The second, “Seventeen (Skrillex Remix)” by Casxio is for you lovers of fidget dance tracks like MSTRKFT.

-Juan Fernandez

For the week of November 16, 2010

  1. Miles Davis: Bitches Brew (Legacy Edition)
  2. Elvis Costello: National Ransom
  3. Apparat: DJ-Kicks
  4. The Dandy Warhols: The Capitol Years 1995-2007
  5. Ratatat: LP4
  6. Mavis Staples: You Are Not Alone
  7. The Vaselines: Sex With An X
  8. Boston Spaceships: Our Clubhouse Still Rocks
  9. Matt and Kim: Sidewalks
  10. Underworld: Barking

On dreaming and playing

The Library Catalogue Music Series is Sufjan Stevens’ label (Asthmatic Kitty) recently-created series of albums. For those of you who are intrigued by Stevens’ recent electronic compositions, you should know that much of the music in this series is part of the same lush electronic lineage. I highly recommend exploring the series, as it’ll open your ears to the goings-on of Asthmatic Kitty.

One prime example of the diversity of this series is Kristin Miltner’s Music for Dreaming and Playing. For starters, it’s warm, playful, ethereal, and devoid of lyrics. The album is all about mood. If you’re looking for some contemplative touches of digital femininity, pop this album into your CD player.

As the album’s title would suggest, the album has two distinct sections: dreaming and playing. The dreaming portion consists of the first four tracks, while the rest is play of the video game sort. Imagine that you’re listening to little morsels of music that Miltner has created for the soundtrack of some warm and fuzzy indie game, and you’re there.

Altamont Pass” is the most outstanding track on this album for those looking for an acoustically rich experience.

To describe this song in more lush language: Harmonics pulse in and out, resonating and creating a shroud similar to muted bells. As a listener, you are now wandering through a desert in your dreams where purple and white clouds drip by slowly and the hologram horizon seems to flicker. Harmless ghosts, about your size, their auras tinged with nacreous greens, pass through you. As they pass, you can see clearly into their muted neon robes. They’ve been precisely where you are. They’ve made the journey and they’ve watched you pass.

You are neither hungry, thirsty, lonely, tired, happy, nor sad. You simply are observing.

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