Contemporary disco (or “Nu-Disco”) is a genre of which many American EDM-listeners may not be aware. The term was coined as early as 2002 by record stores and online vendors and referred to European electronic artists who took influence from 1970’s American Disco. Today, Nu-Disco is most widely recognized in Europe and Australia with artists such as Miami Horror and Cut//Copy heading the scene. There is a burgeoning presence of this music in US culture however, and its sound is perhaps most accurately represented by Brooklyn based, 17-piece band Escort. The band has released a multitude of albums and EP’s over the years including the highly esteemed “Starlight” in 2006. Their latest is a two-track remix single entitled “Caméleon Chameleon & Starlight” on Nang via Red Records and features anglo-japanese producer Max Essa as well as Red Records label boss Ilija Rudman. I had the opportunity to give the single a listen, and found some striking similarities between Nu-Disco and EDM.
The first track is entitled “Caméleon Chameleon (Iljia Rudman music interpretation)” and opens with some light tapping on agogo bells and an egg shaker in the background. The music is joined by a simple drum beat and a heavy funk bass line, then layered with a chorus of synth strings that paint a fierce, driving melody. At two minutes, Rudman inserts clips of Adeline Michèle’s vocal work, and we hear her say “tell me your real name, tell me your real age,” over an electric guitar strumming thick, jazzy chords. Around three minutes, Michèle’s vocals are spliced into the music in a very clipped, abrupt manner, making it sound like the track is skipping. The song exits with a quiet, dreamy synth melody that floats above the music and slowly fades away.
After listening to this track, I was confused as to where the song was different from the original recording. In many ways, the electronic element of the music is downplayed, sometimes to a point of being barely recognizable. On some level, I wanted the remix elements to play a more prominent role the music however, the subtlety of the mix may be its strongest element.
The second track, “Starlight (Max Essa Remix)” opens with Michèle’s harmonized vocals singing “Starlight!” above dense, complex percussive work done with what sounds to be jembe and a drum kit. Although the line is complex, it is still danceable due to the steady bass drum beat. This track is more focused on consciously building its energy and does so by layering contrapuntal synth string melodic lines and allowing vocals to play a more prominent role. For example, around 2:50, we hear the full, unedited vocal line, “baby I’m so scared, I’m so hot for starlight.” Beyond this point, the song grows a bit redundant, rehashing similar ideas, not really expanding beyond a certain energy level. Regardless, I found this track to be more successful than the first due to its percussive complexity as well as its ability to layer seemingly mis-matched melodies.
Overall, I enjoyed “Caméleon Chameleon & Starlight” a great deal. It was short and refreshing, and utilized electronics in a way that did not entirely mar the original recordings. That being said, I did feel that there were points in the album where the EDM elements were overly subdued, and this forced me to question the degree of manipulation employed prior to releasing the tracks. Looking beyond my personal opinions however, I felt these remixes brought to mind the distinct similarities between Nu-Disco and EDM, including the heavy-use and creative handling of synthesizer, as well as the use of repetitive bass, vocal, and melodic lines that make the music both hypnotic and danceable.