In an era where gigantic glitter balls and corduroy flairs took centre stage, a very distinct style of music perfectly highlighted the mood of the time.
Disco music defined and shaped the feel-good mood of the hypnotic, hippie fueled ’70s. It was identifiable as a genre of dance music and a subculture that emerged from the United States urban nightlife scene. Its sound was typified, by four-on-the-floor beats, syncopated basslines, string sections, horns, electric piano, synthesizers, and electric rhythm guitars.
As music developed and time continued to pass, the effervescent disco scene was perceived to fall by the wayside. Dance music came to the fore and new decades naturally transitioned with different styles of music. Was this the case? Had the wonderfully light-hearted genre fallen foul of the ever-changing musical landscape?
Disco, of course, had never died. Its musical tropes—the rhythmic heartbeat, the octave-jumping bass, the swooping violins—continually suffuse pop, although they do tend to make themselves more overt every few years. (Remember the summer of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”?) More importantly, disco’s DNA is essential to all sorts of thriving modern scenes: hip-hop, house, EDM, even country.
Probably its biggest legacy was to turn wild public dancing to prerecorded music into a worldwide pastime and megabusiness. Warehouse raves, bottle-service clubs, and Jazzercise classes all embody the disco sensibility.
All sounds and music production evolves. The Disco genre is no different. Firstly, we need to respect its influence over the aforementioned genre list and its subtle nuances that have infected and imprinted on many forms of musical fashion since its heyday. I am not sure that any other style has quite had the effect over future sounds, quite as much as the funky disco underbelly has.
Take Nile Rodgers as an example. He has been a driving force behind the continuation of those easily identifiable frequencies in today’s music. The iconic musician has helped to inspire a whole new generation of disco-infused sound. He has written, produced, and performed on records that have cumulatively sold more than 500 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide. These statistics alone elude my early statement that disco has never fully extinguished.
Moving forward a little to more modern times. The disco fire is burning as brightly as ever, albeit, taking on a slightly different direction. A rebranded alias so to speak.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the style known as Nu-Disco.
Nu-disco is a 21st-century dance music genre associated with a renewed interest in the US disco, synthesizer-heavy 1980s European dance music styles, and early 1990s electronic dance music. The genre rose to prominence with increased popularity in the first half of the noughties and experienced another mild resurgence through the 2010s.
There are several scenes associated with the nu-disco term, the original one is characterised as house music fused with disco elements (sometimes incorrectly referred to as disco house) and disco-influenced Balearic music.
Many high-profile artists have taken on this style and stamped their authority on the DJ circuit by doing so. Hot Toddy, Dr Packer, Seamus Haji, French Toast, Purple Disco Machine are amongst the long list to achieve status from the sound.
A little further away from the Nu-disco scene, we are, now, seeing the sound influence dance music, taking on a ‘dubbier’ vibe. Many artists choose to edit or sample a well-known disco track and put a 2021 spin on them. Other artists produce fresh notes with slightly different feels, such as tropical disco or disco fused techno. This has created a wonderfully infectious acoustic that encompasses the essence of the 70’s version with a modern twist.
There has been a new player in town over the last few years, Dark disco has joined the growing subgenre list. DD scenes have been bubbling up on all corners of the globe. The newcomer is a versatile and devilishly fun style and looks poised to grow over the coming years.
The resurgence of disco and soulful house events pays testament to the sound’s so-called ‘revival’. In London alone, an influx of events full of groove take you on a trip down memory lane whilst complete the story with a seamless journey to the more modern interpretations.
Events such as Rubix, Disco Disco and Groove By Day, each commanding an authentic slice of the disco pie. What a beautiful thing it has been to see dancefloors lit up with multi-coloured squares, glitter and confetti cannons, saxophone and drum live performances once more. The history and genre credibility has been maintained through the journey of the sound. Each has paid remarkable respect to the routes and origins.
As you may have noticed, revival in the previous paragraph was given added attention as contrary to belief, the genre is not entering a revival stage. It has simply not gone anywhere. As subtle as the sound can be, its production values have modernised and transformed almost every music genre on earth whilst continuing to develop its definition.
Long live the disco inferno.