By playing so very frequently it is the duty of DB's resident DJs to dig up new music material each week. Luckily the reserves of forgotten treasures are endless. Dance music from the '70s, '80s and early '90s, with so many subgenres, plus the many new perspectives and evolutions of those soundscapes being explored today, offer plenty of variety.
There's always much more to discover than can be done in one lifetime. Thus, there is no reason for disco parties to ever end.
Why do today's twenty-somethings scream and celebrate music that belongs to the generation of their grandparents? This has never happened before. It's not just a revival effect. We have a theory why that is happening.
Disco was the first music genre empowered by studio technology to create banging dance music, yet within the general flow of the time it would maintain advanced songwriting and harmonic progressions habits as had firmly been established by the '60s beat movement and furthered by extremily contrasting music cultures such as easy listening, punk and progressive rock. The supporters of these genres disregarded each other, yet all of them shared the love for complex harmonies — because it was normal. Some disco producers found out that they no longer needed to write complicated songs to be successful on the dancefloor, yet the majority did so anyway, because it was normal.
Further on, the '80s experienced a historically unique culmination of factors why its music became particularly complex: while still in that flow of advanced songwriting using chord progressions with key changes and such, the '80s were defined by the radical introduction of synthesizers, electronic sequencing and digital studio technology. It was the only decade in music history, where all of these factors conflated. It seems that especially at the beginning of electronic music, authors would make use of tricks in the box of jazz harmony to make this radical new sound more acceptable to the general audience. Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" wasn't just the first spectacular demonstration of sequencer-driven electronic music, it also plays with alternating key tonalities to create a sense of outworldish space travel. Even commercial HiNRG bangers such as Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax" contain elaborate jazz voicings in the background synthesizer pads. It was so normal and expected, that even the Sex Pistols would include Beatles-style key changes in their chord progressions. Electronic sequencing allowed for a New Wave of songwriters that no longer needed to be good at playing keyboards (check early Depeche Mode recordings for examples), emancipating themselves from the arrogant instrumentalists of the '70s, but they would still maintain refined chord progressions. With the '80s it became even more about the music as such, and not the musician having learned their instrument. To some this was considered cheating, making Depeche Mode one of the least appreciated bands at the time, whereas to others this spelt liberation and the empowerment of the compositions beyond the bodily limitations of human beings.
Only towards the end of the '80s, when electronic pop had converged into commercial HiNRG of the Rick Astley type, a backlash against electronic music brought about various trends that took a different approach. On one side there was a return to guitars which spawned both elaborate and incredibly simple and boring guitar music we hardly ever hear today. The phrase "Less is more" came about in the musician scene and was quickly picked up by music industry as it reduced the dependency on actual talent and made commercial music easier to make. But the return to guitars also led to the creation of grunge rock that stayed throughout the '90s, fueled by the most extreme use of unusual chord progressions. At the same time, genres like house, hip-hop and techno came about, that either used chords as freely as melodies, or happily stayed in A Minor (just the white keys on the keyboard). By 1995, the "less is more" principle was dominating the creative process in the mainstream and in the underground. The instrumentalists of the '80s (called "muzos" at the time) had been hiding away in a genre called "Acid jazz" and slowly wiped out of the music business. Since 1995, nobody talks about acid jazz. It devolved into R'n'B which was notoriously kept in A Minor with no harmonic complexity at all.
There can be beauty and value in songs that never do a key change, but ever since 1995, we hardly ever heard anything else. The only key changes are introduced by the DJ by the sequence of tunes they put on the turntable. That's better than nothing, but it does not touch the audience emotionally in the same way. It's not like a disco song that makes the sun come out in your heart when the singer leads you from verse over bridge into a chorus in a different key. You just don't get that from modern music. That, we think, is the reason why original music from the '70s and '80s is experiencing such a rediscovery that goes far beyond revival. It's the yearning for such emotional high tides that only few modern compositions provide. And that's a reason why we think there is more future of music in disco than in many modern music genres.
The most powerful tool in the hands of a DJ in order to keep everybody dancing is to create a so-called flow. The flow doesn't really have any criteria to distinguish it from random music other that it continously maintains the same levels of intensity, mood and even popularity. A DJ can create a flow of techno tracks that all sound the same, or they can achieve the same with a string of '70s disco instrumentals, a chain of '80s italo disco tunes or even a series of obvious radio hits.
The essential strength of the flow is that the audience is never given an excuse to stop dancing. The downside of this obviously is, that it can get quite boring to always hear music in the same vibe. Many DJs do break up the flow every now and then with some special unexpected songs, but they're taking a little risk each time they do, so please show appreciation and support them when they do. Don't go to the toilet and get a beer just because the DJ dared to let go of the flow for a moment. Rather, wait until everybody is at the peak of excitement, so that your absence will hardly be noticed. This way you as a dancer help the DJ take you on a journey through music history, rather than staying conservatively stuck in a flow, whichever one it is.
Several times in music history has the popularity of disco and house declined. It happened dramatically around 2001 when disco-house, French house and even tech-house had overdone it. The '70s disco revival that had been so strong during the '90s also collapsed as a side effect. People were so sick of any sort of '70s sound, they turned to electro, techno and other genres that the new millenium brought about.
It had already happened once in 1980. Disco had become such a commercial mainstream thing, that a lot of it started sounding the same: a bit like disco-house with cliché elements like the off-beat open hi-hat that hadn't been there in earlier disco music. Also the production of special music just for DJs was at its peak, allowing DJs to play a flow of possibly quite boring disco-sounding tunes for hours and hours, as those tunes were done in always the same style. Disco had become an industry. This is especially the case with American disco productions of 1979.
The motivations of the 'disco sucks' movement that tore down disco are highly objectionable, yet there was indeed a saturation in the air and the whole planet welcomed the sound of 'new wave' and all of '80s sequencer-driven electronic music that the 1981 invention of MIDI brought about (except maybe for Italy that took its own detour with 'italo disco').
So what does this mean for today? Well, there is a risk that all this house music that is having such a strong resurgence now, mostly because it is a lot easier to mix than actual disco, may fall into disgrace once again. Many collectives that carry 'disco' in their names are actually riding the house music horse. Disco Bizarre would like to carry its musical journey on, even after the next demise of 'house'.
Given the way genre names are never very clear we do need to make some distinctions. House music started around 1987 as exactly what the name implies: the first music genre that could be produced at home without going to a studio, because MIDI and 4-track-recording technology had made it possible as it never had been before. So the early house music is rooted in '80s HiNRG and hasn't got a lot to do with what house became after 1995. It's so different from later house that people recently started calling it Proto-House.
At the beginning Hip-Hop was intertwined with house, producing exciting subgenres such as Hip-House, later leading into Eurodance. The '90s were heavily influenced by sampling technology. It was perceived as modern to steal a loop from some '70s tune and play, sing or rap something new on top of it. And of course it was much easier than actually playing instruments.
This approach led to the creation of disco-house: music that would use samples of disco music, put a new 909 drum beat on it and structure it in a way that makes it much easier for DJs to play than the originals. At first it would only loop some cool instrumental parts, later it became popular to do entire house remixes of disco songs, shifting the focus away from the funkiness of disco (which typically gets lost if you put new drums on it) over to its mainstream popularity aspect.
But why did disco house always need to have such an upfront 909 drum pattern and throw away the nice original drum performance? That's because technology at the time couldn't do better! The original disco drums were played by humans listening to metronomes at best. Frequently they were not precise enough to make it easy for the DJ to match the beats of songs. Since 2001, software exists that can empower the music producer to reposition the drum playing to exact spots on the timeline, a process called quantizing or warping. This has led to the edit culture that had its peak around 2011 whereby music of the past would be restructured and 'corrected' timing-wise in order to be just as easy to mix as house music. But back in the '90s, none of this was possible. The only way to make a disco song easy for DJs to use was to filter the original drum playing and put loud computer-driven exact drums on top — typically using the sounds of the Roland TR-909 drum machine.
This creates a certain uniformity in the sound of disco house, making it a practical choice for keeping a 'flow'. As a side effect it turned out to be practical that this music didn't need any use of reverb effects and return channels, so-called Filter-House essentially just works with looping and filtering, enabling a lot of producers to create their own house remixes without much understanding of music and could easily be done entirely on a computer, even back in 1997, without buying any extra gear. It's ironical that several producers still try to sound this way given the freedom they have today not to do so.
So, coming back to the original question, there is plenty of original house music which is actually new music not based on other people's samples, and then there is the easy filter- and loop-based house which is kind of bad, because you're doing the music a more respectful job if you play the original, or a well-cut edit that enhances the original drums without replacing them. And then there are a lot of people that make nice original music, with and without the use of a 909 drum machine, and call it 'house' as well.
For some people the criterion to call it house simply is that there is something warm-hearted about it, as opposed to the presumed coldness of techno and other dance music styles. This makes it pretty prone to confusion and creates overlap with Indie-Dance, which may simply be seen as commercially independent dance music — but that definition applies to most dance music ever since 1989. So, to separate that term in a more useful way from other electronic dance music we could again pay attention to the drums:
If you can hear a fat snare drum, taking up a large chunk of the frequency spectrum and ringing out in a sweet reverb, much like it would have been done in the '70s or '80s, then you are probably listening to Indie-Dance. Also if there is no harsh open hi-hat in the off-beat and no 909 kick drum. An Indie-Dance kick drum typically has a bit of reverb and a bit of percussive edge in the mid-frequency field, as was customary in the '70s and '80s. Same applies to #darkdisco, which is a term that had been in use in the 2010 years to describe Indie-Dance with particularly sad or serious moods. Both genres are frequently engineered in a way to sound similar to '80s HiNRG, Industrial and Electronic Body Music (EBM) while having dramaturgies inspired by the techno culture. And both genres typically use the sounds of the Linn drum machine, essential device of the early '80s.
At Disco Bizarre we do play Dark Disco and Indie-Dance because these genres are made to go together well with their '80s mamas and papas, yet bring a new approach to the table that is different from the house and techno we have had in recent decades. For now it seems safe to say that the future of dance music is currently starting anew from the '80s — with Proto-House, Acid House and '70s Disco playing influential roles.
Ever noticed how frequently it happens in clubs that several dancefloors have basically the same music playing? This is not a coincidence. It may of course have been a choice by the booker, but it also happens simply by having the same resident deejays play at the same parties over and over again. It's a psychological effect by which deejays feel more comfortable to play in a similar vein as others and prefer to avoid being singled out. In smalltowns it can define the sound of a whole town.
If the persons in charge of booking do not consciously focus on variety, a club can start turning musically in circles, always playing the same music. It can even lose touch with the ongoing vibe in the worldwide music scene. Disco Bizarre bookers not only are very aware of the bookings they select, they also have a rule not to compete with the techno and house floors at KitKatClub. That's a reason why a 909 kick drum is less likely to play on our dancefloors. As discussed before, that doesn't mean we're stuck on retro music. In fact we believe that there is more future of music happening where we are, than on the traditional techno and house dancefloors.
In digger DJ circles it is considered cool to play the most obscure music you can find. The less known, the better. This can backfire if it becomes the only criterion. Since the music industry took a wrong turn around 1995 and focused on making money rather than finding talented artists, all of the good music has been happening away from mainstream. This obviously counts for techno and all its variations, but even for electroclash and electro-pop leading to the huge phenomenon of 'indie dance' music and subculture pop stars pulling themselves up by their bootstraps via the Internet, entirely bypassing traditional music industry.
But this isn't the way it has always been! Please be aware that before 1995, most of the music that didn't make it to the mainstream indeed wasn't good enough! Those tunes that work in the context of a 'cosmic' DJ set as intended by its inventor Daniele Baldelli may not make any sense by themselves. Vocal house songs created by the DJs of certain influential '80s clubs may not be musically on the same level as mainstream hits of that time. Obscure B-sides and unreleased materials of the '70s and '80s may simply not be as well prepared as their counterpart A-sides. But if you feel the music, you can dig out the strangest things and take them to the top. Keep digging.
Just as a house track was playing, a girl comes up and asks if this is Italo Disco. Hmmm, no, not exactly. Italo Disco is a niche in the Italian music production business which was aimed at getting airplay on Radio Deejay. That radio station founded in 1982 had a special rule that it would not play any music sung in Italian, so club music producers started creating dance music tunes with English, French or Spanish vocals (Righeira!). There is plenty of Italian disco music of the '70s, but that's not Italo Disco. Even the name makes no sense in Italian. In Italian, "Italo" is a person's name. It was Germans who came up with the term when they first released a compilation of such Italian club music productions on the German market in the mid-80s. "Italo" is a German slang word for "italian".
Italo Disco is a synthesizer and sequencer-driven music genre typical of the 1980's. It is frequently inspired by British New Wave and New Romantic music that were dominating the charts in the early '80s, but it had its own characteristics - Italo Disco synth riffs are usually funkier than British wave ones, the drums and sequences were frequently predating the patterns of HiNRG, the dominating dance music of the mid- to late '80s, and the vocals came with plenty of funny accents and language mistakes due to literal translation from Italian. Also there was little impediment to employing super cheesy choruses and making active use of kitsch - that's why Italo Disco frequently satisfies the kitsch expectation of the '80s better than mainstream '80s music, making it the preferred choice for new musicians who want to tap into the extreme cheese aesthetics of the '80s, not the boring attempts to stay serious.
When Righeira, Kano and Gazebo then actually hit the charts with their Italo sound, Italian audience still thought of them as international acts from abroad. Only with Sabrina, Baltimora, Tony Esposito and Sandy Marton it became evident that this was actually a homemade thing. By the mid '80s such Italo Disco productions played a big role also in Italian charts and have been remembered ever since as some of the most embarassing cheesy commercial things Italy ever came up with, that's why the average Italians disregard the whole genre and have little knowledge about it. It was the Dutch who started cultivating the legacy of Italo Disco with a dedicated Internet radio station called Cybernetic Broadcast System. Berlin soon also had dedicated Italo Disco parties as early as 2004, and a 100% Italo radio show on TWENFM called Radio Tenax (Tenax was the leading Italian brand for '80s hair-do fixing spray). That's why you can expect some of the highest degree of competence in Italo Disco in the digging scene of the German capital, and certainly not in Italy. While the re-evaluation of Italo Disco is on the rise elsewhere and especially in Italy, it may actually be slowly fading in Berlin. We already had that for 20 years now.
Because techno is orange, and that is one of the most important achievements of techno culture. Back in the early '90s, leftist squats in Italy started throwing techno parties. At the time a big chunk of the youth was tending towards rightwing ideologies, mostly because it was cool to shock their parents. When they stood in line to get into the techno party, they were told to strip their ideologies at the door and to wear their bomber jackets inside out. Those jackets were almost always of orange colour inside, so you would see plenty of people in orange on the dancefloor (which frequently was outdoors, even in winter). Techno culture contributed massively to bringing this youth back into a reasonable center of society, and that is what our club is still doing to this day. If anyone exhibits inacceptable behaviours or beliefs, they will be thrown out for sure. But as long as they are willing to become a better person, they may get a chance. And the KitKatClub is certainly a place that can teach you to be a better person.