Disco may be the most pervasive form of music on this planet. There is no strict definition of what makes disco disco: a 4/4 beat is all you really need. People claim to despise disco, although admitting to liking some disco singles has become acceptable. Listen, fuckers, you always liked it, you only “hated” it because everyone else “hated” it and now you, flippantly, want to admit that you like a few singles? You know what? YOU LIKE DISCO. Don’t bother denying it. Sigh… it’s getting old.
Okay. Here’s the history of disco: Disco bubbled up in the early-70s’ Philly Soul sound, floated over to Europe, came back to NYC fucked up and electro, got all over everything, was loved, hated, died, was reborn a few years later, and has quietly roamed the Earth ever since, sometimes showing itself, sometimes hiding behind such words as “post-punk,” “new wave,” “techno,” “house” or “dance-rock.” Disco wasn’t destroyed in a Chicago baseball stadium. Disco never went underground. Disco got punched in the face, that’s for sure, but disco has no face, so what does it matter?
This week, I want to present you with a few modern-day versions of that glorious, classic disco sound. Some will fit your idea of disco, some may not.
Chromatics’ "In the City" begins with a simple 4/4 bass drum, a sampled, chiming keyboard loop and a two-note ice-pick synth stab. Deadened guitar notes are added with the snare beat, an equally dead female vocal picks up and a squelchy synth cuts through like a lazy razor. The bass is as uncomplicated, both as rhythm and harmony, just adding occasional weight. Chromatics use disco as a foundation, then empty out the space around it until the strength of 4/4 time seems barely enough to hold the song upright. An errant or unnecessary note could topple the construction. From the sound, it is obviously nighttime, and the atmosphere is not euphoric, but paranoid and frightened. Violence and suicide are implied but never confirmed within the lyric. This is disco on ice, and everybody has bare, wet feet.