Music

Various Artists: Best of Disco Demands

"Disco Demands": a contradiction in terms? Not exactly, says DJ Al Kent.


Various Artists

Best of Disco Demands

Label: BBE
US Release Date: 2012-01-10
UK Release Date: 2012-01-09
Amazon
iTunes

The Good

What you have here is a five-disc, 45-track set featuring a comprehensive selection of some of the genre's best and rarest tracks. Curated, compiled, and re-edited by the genre's foremost DJ and archivist. Truly a grand undertaking.

The Bad

The genre is disco.

The Ugly

See: The Bad.

Had you cracked an egg in 1977 and left it in your cupboard, come 2012 it likely would have aged better than disco has. For most folks, disco is good for "Y.M.C.A" or maybe "Good Times" at a wedding reception, and that's about it. But not for Al Kent. The Scottish DJ has made a reputation for himself by spinning nothing but vintage disco. Kent "re-edits" most of the tracks he uncovers, sometimes taking just a snippet of the original and looping it for a while before letting the song unspool. This is his own artform, his labor of love, and, quite possibly, his try at making disco a bit more palatable. Whatever the case, since the turn of the millennium, Kent has been gaining fans with his Disco Demands series. And now the entire series, give or take, has been assembled on one massive set.

This is not "Y.M.C.A.", "Good Times", or the same dozen disco tracks that repeatedly are collected on compilations. This is not even the Euro-chill of Donna Summer's Giorgio Moroder productions. It's everything else, and then some. Best of Disco Demands gives you funky, bass-poppin' disco such as Puff's "(You Got Me) In The Mood". Smooth, disco-soul like Alan Harris & Perpetual Motion's "Get Ready". Booming, Phil Spector-like disco (Don Renaldo Strings' "Fiddlin' Around"), Afrobeat-inspired disco (Disco Warriors' "Cumbaya Disco"), reggae-inspired disco in the form of Alex and His Soul Messengers' "Hail to Guyana". Disco about basketball great Julius "Dr. J" Erving. Disco about disco. Disco about disco sucking. And much, much more.

And the thing is, with the help of the remastering and Kent's editing skills, maybe, a lot of it sounds pretty good. Pretty fresh, even. Make your way through this disco pile and you'll discover the likes of Executive Suite's winningly pun-employing yet no-nonsense "Why In the World Do They Keep On (Funk'in With Me)", which just might be a reference to the homophobia disco's large gay following tended to engender. Or Superbs' sincere, uplifting "Party Together". Or, best of all, Curtis' massive, skin-tight, anthemic, life-affirming "How Can I Tell Her". Tracks like this have nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, they bear disco's message of optimism, perseverance, and tolerance proudly. Best of Disco Demands is a sampler's dream, as well. Dozens of funky riffs, intricate rhythms, and groovy percussion just demand to be snatched up and turned into modern hip-hop, techno, pop, anything. They're that good. And the playing is nearly all on "real" instruments. That means, most crucially, crisp, human drumming with propulsive hi-hat work.

Of course, to get to these goodies you have to pass through various circles of disco hell. These include ear-piercing, high-pitched, often staccato strings; silly shout-outs and chants; wah-wah pedal overdoses, and bad puns like "disco socks". With the trimmings come the trappings, and not even someone as deft as Kent can eliminate all of them. Many tracks start off with something cool, only to be foiled by something much more dumb. Is it all worth it? Yes. If not for the genuinely, timelessly good music that's to be had, for the musical influence alone. Throughout all the permutations, one element is consistent. The steady, thumping, four-on-the-floor rhythm is almost continuous. Here, the foundation of house music was laid. First, the distinctive sounds of Chicago, Detroit, and elsewhere, and then the all-encompassing term. And, from there, much of present-day pop. Step forward just a matter of weeks from the infamous Disco Demolition Night, and you have Roxy Music's "Angel Eyes". A matter of months later, you have Duran Duran's early "Night Versions". Listen to the 12" version of "Rio". It's not "disco-inspired". It is disco.

There's a very, very good chance you were not planning on purchasing any disco this year. But if anything is going to make you reconsider, it's Best of Disco Demands.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image