Thursday, February 14, 2008

D-I-S-C-Oh lordy, has it really been that long?!

That's right, I'm back, after a well-deserved (I think) breather, with some recommendations for your ears. Looks like I'm well into my disco at the moment, like...

Masterminded by Scottish disco, erm, mastermind, Al Kent, The Million Dollar Orchestra are a reaction to the current trends towards re-editing, sampling and all things recycled. Kent recruited some seriously talented musicians (remember them) and got them to play some furious old school funky disco jams like their lives depended on it. The resulting album, Better Days is a heady, nostalgic dip into pure disco, except that it's only the spirit that's been revived as all the sounds you're hearing are brand new.

Better Days is all about the horny horns, fleet-footed percussion and, above all else, sweaty hedonistic good times associated with '70s disco. It eschews conventional song structure in favour of creating dancefloor groovers, with hooks to spare. There's no verse-chorus-verse here, it's all very much in the vein of original '70s heads like LTD or Positive Force, with tons of four-to-the-floor beats, chicken scratch guitar and lascivious synths that bring to mind the likes of Class Action's classic 'Weekend' or early-80s boogie peddlers like D-Train, Patrice Rushen or Brenda Taylor and the functional, matter-of-fact style track titles like, 'Feel The Music', 'Dontcha Wanna Get Down' and 'Get It Boy' further enhance the fact that this is music for dancing, pure and simple.

Which doesn't mean that it doesn't lend itself equally well to headphones as there's an effervescence about Better Days that makes it great walking music. Just don't complain to Mr. Kent if you get stopped for strutting with intent to get down.

The Million Dollar Orchestra - Feel The Music (mp3)

For comparison's sake...

Class Action - Weekend (mp3)

Using the medium of disco to different ends than The Million Dollar Orchestra is arty ponce, Kelley Polar. Well, I say "arty ponce", but what I really mean is "refined electronic music genius", as his second album, I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling makes good on the promise of chamber-disco debut, Love Songs Of The Hanging Gardens (likes his ostentatious titles, this fella), which was pretty great itself. I Need You To Hold On... is a fuller, more confident, richer record, if a little less focused.

Whereas its predecessor stuck closely to a kind of patented orchestral disco-pop, the follow-up takes in some proggier elements (the multi-textured synth symphony of 'A Dream In Three Parts (On Themes By Enesco)' and the Mercury Rev-esque 'Zeno Of Elea' spring to mind), whilst also finding room for some sharp, immediate pop moments, like the he said/she said duet of 'Entropy Reigns (In The Celestial City)' (fondness for parentheses too) and, best of all, the shimmering 'Sea Of Sine Waves'. It's way too early to say shit like what I'm about to - doubly so given the task I'm still suffering from lethargy because of - but if this isn't there or thereabouts in my year-end lists come December then it'll have to be one hell of a year. Not perfection, although it seems we are to expect that from Polar one day, but it's damn close.

Kelley Polar - Sea Of Sine Waves (mp3)

No post on disco music would be complete without a look into its past. It's timely then that Strut records gets back off the ground with another in its series of digs into the weirder end of the disco spectrum. Disco Not Disco: Post Punk, Electro And Leftfield Disco Classics 1974-1986 is, torturous title aside, quite a fun listen. It seems that compiler Bill Brewster has hedged his bets a little with that broad title as some of these tracks wouldn't know disco if it bit them on the balls (quite what Vivien Goldman's 'Launderette' is doing on here is anyone's guess, great song as it is), but then again, I guess that's what the Not infers.

Some of the tracks here suffer from over-familiarity (do we really need to hear 'Mind Your Own Business' and 'Contort Yourself' again?), but things get more interesting when the compilation heads down the esoteric early electronica route, with tracks like Yellow Magic Orchestra's effervescent 'Seoul Music' or the bionic throb of 'Los Ninos Del Parque' by Liaisons Dangereuses and bonus points added for throwing in the instrumental of 'Sharevari'. Granted, the vocal version might be better, but surely everyone has that by now, right? Either way, it's nice to have a label like Strut back. Look out for the forthcoming Compass Point chronicle, Funky Nassau, too.

Vivien Goldman - Launderette (mp3)

Yellow Magic Orchestra - Seoul Music (mp3)

I'm adoring this thing too at the moment but I'm reviewing it for someone else, so I'll save my words for now. In the meantime, nick a treat before EMI tell me to take it down...

Hercules And Love Affair - This Is My Love (mp3)

In case you think I've been doing sod-all during my break, think again, then go and download the two recent Blog Fresh Radio shows I've contributed to. One where I'm talking about Cadence Weapon and another where I'm yammering about your man, Kelley Polar. Also, keep an eye out for some mixtapes coming soon. No word of a lie, it's gonna be boss!

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Blogger Bob Scheffel said...

Good to have you back, sir. I'm digging H&LA and Cadence myself at the moment. Looking forward to some mixtapes real soon!

3:18 am  
Blogger JOLLY ROGER said...

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4:12 pm  
Blogger James said...

Cheers for the comment, Bob, as usual. Hopefully the mixtapes will be right up your street.

And thank you, Roger, for the, erm, insight.

4:18 pm  

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