If you ask disco fans why they love the genre, many will talk about how inclusive it is as a social phenomenon. The same could be said for the music itself. Rock and pop fans often have little interest in the eccentricities of foreign popular music but disco fans know no such prejudice. If it captures the ear and moves the feet, it’s fair game – and the more colorful and unique, the better. Disco is all about getting lost in the furthest realms of outré sonic fantasy and European-made disco records often did the trick better than anything else.
A good refresher on this principle can be found between the grooves of Disco Discharge: Euro Disco. Over two discs, it lays out a comprehensive sampler of how European producers took the budding disco format during the 1970’s and 1980’s and twisted it in all manner of unique directions. Alan Jones’s liner notes break down the basic Eurodisco concept in an easily understood way: basically, it took instantly accessible, bubblegum-ish melodies and pumped them up with grandiose soundscapes to create a trance-inducing sound that could dazzle your ears as its hooks slipped right under your skin.
The first disc focuses on the mid-to-late 1970’s era of Eurodisco. The sound veers back and forth between romanticized orchestrations and blissed-out electronics. In the orchestral camp, Don Ray’s “Garden Of Love” reinterprets Latin rhythms in the service of French-accented melodicism while Boris Midney’s “That’s The Meaning/Boogie Motion” is a mini-symphony that starts dreamy and ends as a toe-tapper. On the electro tip, Magic’s “Space Fly” welds Jean Michel Jarre-derived ethereal synths to simple pop hooks and Giorgio Moroder’s “From Here To Eternity” makes an all-electronic arrangement feel like a spaceship ride to nirvana.
The second disc takes us into the 1980’s, where synths and drum machines become dominant. There’s more homogeneity on the surface but the records find interesting ways to create different moods with similar tools. For instance, Change’s “Change Of Heart” tweaks the new wave affections of early 1980’s U.S. soul by injecting a dose of Euro-melodicism while Propaganda’s gloriously quirky “P Machinery” has a stark, dramatic arrangement that makes it feel like spy-thriller theme music. Elsewhere, Kano’s bubblegummy “I’m Ready” sounds like dance music for robots and Eighth Wonder’s “I’m Not Scared” captures the lyric’s mood of heartbroken frustration with an ethereal yet icy soundscape.
The end result is like a tour of Europe conducted exclusively via its discotheques. Disco Discharge: Euro Disco offers style and melodies by the bucketful, all delivered with a continental flair and plenty of lush artifice. If you are interested in exploring disco’s international frontiers, it’s a stylish way to get started.