|Cultural origins||Mid-1990s, United Kingdom|
Nu-disco is a 21st-century dance music genre associated with a renewed interest in the late 1970s US disco, synthesizer-heavy 1980s European dance music styles, and early 1990s electronic dance music. The genre was especially popular in the first half of the 2000s, and experienced another mild resurgence through the 2010s.
There are several scenes associated with the nu-disco term, the original one is characterized as house music fused with disco elements (sometimes incorrectly referred to as disco house), and disco-influenced balearic music, also known as balearic beat revival or balearica.
Nu-disco is often confused with the other disco-influenced house music genres, such as French house or disco house. French house has heavily sample based production, compared to the usually programmed or live original instrumentation that nu-disco relies on. The other key difference is in the song structure - nu-disco usually have the typical song structure of pop or classic disco song, with various breakdowns, and often with verses and a chorus, whereas disco house generally has a more constant and unvaried character throughout, as the most of house music.
Early developments, disco-edits: mid 1990s–late 1990s
The early developments of the genre are linked with the Black Cock Records, primarily active in 1993-1998, founded by DJ Harvey and Gerry Rooney. The label was focused on releasing non-official re-edits of disco tracks and some funk-influenced rock. It was not the first existing disco-edits bootleg label, but had a huge impact on a generation of house music producers, inspiring many in digging decadent genre and adjusting their own house music productions with disco-sounding elements.
In the mid 1990s Nuphonic Records was the house label for British artists Idjut Boys, Faze Action, Raj Gupta and Crispin J Glover, which are considered to be the pioneers of nu-disco. The Idjut Boys, best known for pioneering a house music style called "disco-dub" were heavily inspired by the freestyle and dub-influenced, post-disco dance sounds of the early 1980s. Faze Action were one of the first house production units to make "all live" productions that insisted on drawing on methods used in disco. DJ Dave Lee aka Joey Negro and Crazy P are also called to be the pioneers of the genre.
In 1997, DJ I-F released the track Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass, a track based around electro-funk drum patterns, 80s FM synth stabs and vocoder vocals, that single-handedly started the electroclash movement, and brought melodic, European sounding electro-disco back to clubs and DJ sets. In 1999, I-F released the first of his "Mixed Up In The Hague" mixes, made up almost entirely of Italo disco and Euro disco, which became hugely influential.
Mainstream success, French house and disco house synonym: late 1990s–mid 2000s
In the late 1990s to early 2000s, disco-inspired dance genres became popular; many French house, funky house, and disco house songs broke into the charts. Popular tracks such as Kylie Minogue's "Spinning Around", Sophie Ellis-Bextor's "Take Me Home" and "Murder on the Dancefloor", Jamiroquai's "Little L", and Freemasons "Love on My Mind" all made the top ten of the UK Singles Chart. By this time, the nu-disco scene was heavily associated with disco house and French house.
The moniker "nu-disco" first appeared in print as early as 2002. In 2002, The Independent described nu-disco as the result of applying "modern technology and pin-sharp production" to 1970s disco and funk. Metro Area's self-titled album, released in 2002, is often regarded as one of the most influential albums in the genre. The album named the second best album of the decade by Resident Advisor and the best nineteenth of the decade by Fact magazine. In the early 2000s the genre was a dance music mainstay, right until the mid-2000s when electro house gained commercial success, leaving nu-disco in decline from mainstream and pushing it to further development.
Decline in popularity and development of the sound: mid 2000s–late 2000s
In the 2000s nu-disco gained a new sound, which was developed in various local scenes:
- Norwegian disco, a fusion of space disco with nu-disco, notable artists are Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas and Todd Terje.
- Balearica or Balearic beat revival, a European scene, highly influenced by Balearic house, mostly presented by Belgian act Aeroplane and other European producers.
- European synth-driven nu-disco, influenced by Italo disco, 1980s synth-pop and new wave, pioneered by Lifelike and Kris Menace, the scene later outgrew into synthwave movement.
- The Australian scene, which crosses boundaries with indietronica and indie dance, notable artists are Miami Horror and Bag Raiders.
In July 2008 Beatport added genre category "Nu Disco / Indie Dance", stating that nu-disco is "everything that springs from the late '70s and early '80s (electronic) disco, boogie, cosmic, Balearic and Italo disco continuum". Originally, service associated it with re-edits of classic disco records and a handful of European electronic producers who made music in that style. It was used alongside alternative dance up until September 2019, when Beatport separated categories into two, leaving nu-disco in "Nu Disco / Disco".
In the 2008 Spin magazine stated that disco is experiencing a worldwide renaissance, with a flowering of new labels, compilations, and club nights, calling the disco of the 21st century seedy, underground, and punk in attitude. The magazine pointed that Euro disco sound, including instrumental space disco and the late-1970s—early-1980s Italo disco, was the main influence on the nu-disco scene of that time.
Back to mainstream: early 2010s–present
In the early 2010s, bands such as Metronomy, Hercules & Love Affair and Friendly Fires started using nu-disco elements in their songs, bringing nu-disco back to mainstream popularity and critical acclaim. Nu-disco artists Aeroplane and Soulwax became massively influential and have been released on major labels, while other producers are commissioned anonymously to work for pop acts. Steve Kotey, member of cult band Chicken Lips, said in 2012: "30 percent of music in the charts have the feeling of this left-field disco production style in it. The producers give it that kind of shine that makes it more for radio than your DJ box. You can hear the electronic Chicken Lips stuff that was prevalent in 2003 in some of Lady Gaga's music".
In 2013, several disco- and funk-influenced songs charted as top hits, this time in a 1970s style. One source stated that the pop charts had more dance songs than at any other point since the late 1970s. The biggest disco hit of the year was "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk, featuring Chic's Nile Rodgers on guitar. The song was initially thought likely to be a leading candidate to become the summer's biggest hit that year; however, the song ended up peaking at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five weeks behind another major disco-styled song, Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines", which spent twelve weeks at number 1 on the Hot 100, and in the process became the eventual song of the summer itself. Both were popular with a wide variety of demographic groups.
From the mid-2010s to early 2020s, the trend continued. Many major dance-pop artists dabbled into the style. Taylor Swift and producer Ali Payami incorporated nu-disco influences into Swift's 2015 single "Style". Calvin Harris released the nu-disco and funk album "Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1" in 2017, which reached high positions on the British and American charts. Dua Lipa released the nu-disco album Future Nostalgia in 2020, which also broke into the tops of the charts in many countries. The album also spawned the nu-disco single "Don't Start Now", which peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2020.
In May 2020, Studio 54, the former nightclub and 1970s center of disco culture, launched a record label called Studio 54 Music, featuring newly re-imagined versions of classic club disco tracks by Don Ray and T-Connection.
Disco edits / re-edits
A modified version of the original master, edited by disco and house DJs to extend and emphasize the best and most dance-friendly elements. Todd Terje's edit of the Bee Gees hit "You Should Be Dancing" does exactly that, downplaying the old-school vocal riffs in favor of driving bass, lively percussion, and an overall sense of space. Many nu-disco producers are also disco editors and often there is a bit of overlap between the two genres as many nu-disco songs feature samples of classic disco tracks. It is also not uncommon for an edit to be made of a modern track.
Since nu-disco is a dance genre first and foremost, the drum grooves are an essential part. They often feature four-on-the-floor beats with an organic, lively feel based on the sounds of classic disco recordings by Chic, Sister Sledge, and others. In some cases, producers will sample these grooves directly. Los Angeles-based producer Goldroom uses both house and disco influenced drum grooves in tracks such as "Waiting to Ignite".
While modern production is abundant with synthesized sounds, many nu-disco records are, in the disco tradition, driven by guitar or bass licks. Guitarist, producer, and songwriter Nile Rodgers brought riffs to the forefront of the groove with Chic in the 1970s and again with Daft Punk in 2013. Other notable modern examples include "Baby I'm Yours" by Breakbot and "Holding On" by Classixx. "Be Good 2 Me" by Luxxury is an example of mixing live instrumentation (bass, gtr, vocals) with samples (beats, percussion).
As with other electronic genres, nu-disco producers use both digital and analog synths to create melodic and harmonic lines, and add ambiance and color to their records. Gigamesh uses a heavily synthesized sound while still retaining old-school influences in tracks such as "Back to Life", and Poolside uses atmospheric synths to complement their drum, bass, and guitar sounds in "Do You Believe".
Unlike its disco precursors, nu-disco and disco house are not beholden to song forms that are essential to the modern pop idiom. Rather than following the traditional verse-chorus model, nu-disco tends to take after its electronic cousins, with more drawn-out, repetitive sections that slowly ramp up to the chorus and back down again. Otherwise monotonous lines are brought to life with the use of filters, samples, and other subtle changes in the sound or groove over time in ways that make people want to keep dancing. Daft Punk's "One More Time" is considered one of the most influential examples of the application of "filter disco."
- Black Cock Records (UK) was founded by DJ Harvey, and operated primarily in the 1990s. The label issued disco mixes and re-edits, and encouraged many young DJs on the label to incorporate disco elements into their house mixes, despite it being out of fashion at the time.
- Nuphonic Records (UK), which carries releases from a range of electronic genres and subgenres, helped launch a number of acts in the 1990s and early 2000s including Faze Action and Raj Gupta, and was one of the early pioneers of collaboration, fusion of genres, and live performance in disco house and beyond. The label has been suggested as the origin of the phrase "nu-disco".
- DFA Records (NYC) was initially started by James Murphy as a platform to launch his and his band LCD Soundsystem's music. The label has released records from a number of dance rock and nu-disco acts, including its very first hit with The Rapture and nu-disco/electronica project The Juan MacLean.
- Roche Musique (FR) is a progressive nu-disco and chill electronica label on the French scene. Citing the importance of the "French Touch", artists such as FKJ and Darius have released records on the label.
- Ballroom Records (US) is a now defunct label that produced a large number of bootleg re-edits released as white labels.
- French duo Daft Punk has had a significant influence on nu-disco and numerous genres related to it. Their albums Homework and Discovery contain several reinterpretations of classic disco records, and they collaborated with Nile Rodgers on the hit single "Get Lucky". Although many French artists in the French house scene have produced music associated with nu-disco, Daft Punk are the most recognised name in the scene internationally.
- Dimitri From Paris, another French artist, is also strongly associated with the genre. Rather than focusing on 1970s pop records, he uses eclectic sources for samples such as 1950s jazz, Latin exotica, and film soundtracks.
- Norwegian producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm pioneered a new sound in European clubs that became a precursor to nu-disco. With a musical background spanning from country and rock to gospel and jazz, Lindstrom's "Norse House", which has gained an international reputation, evoked many of the elements of 1970s disco. Other Norwegian producers connected to the scene are Lindstrom's studio mate Prins Thomas and protege Todd Terje.
- "Beatport launches nu disco / indie dance genre page" (Press release). Beatport. 2008-07-30. Archived from the original on 2008-08-07. Retrieved 2008-08-08.
Beatport is launching a new landing page, dedicated solely to the genres of "nu disco" and "indie dance".
- "Spin Magazine - February 2008 - Reviews (Page 46)". Spin: Digital archives. Spin Magazine. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009.
- "The Joy Of Nu Disco". www.prsformusic.com. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- Lowrey-Rasmussen, Logan (2016-06-29). "3 Nu Disco / Disco House Tracks That Keep the Funk Alive In 2016". relentlessbeats.com. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
- Hutchinson, Kate. "Dan Lissvik: Midnight review – suitably eclectic Balearic beat revival". The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- Hervé. "Moombahton, Nu-Jungle, Future Garage? Let Hervé explain". The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- Grodzins, Quinn (2017-08-14). "What We Like - Nu-Disco". EDM Identity. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- "Every summer is 'The Summer Of Disco': Your essential 'Nu-Disco' primer (part one)". DangerousMinds. 2013-06-04. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- "MN2S Genre Focus: Nu Disco | Features". MN2S. 2017-05-30. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- Nash, Rob (2002-10-19). "Clubs: New Releases: Tutto Matto Hot Spot". The Independent.
- "Top 100 albums of the '00s". Resident Advisor. January 25, 2010. Retrieved March 19, 2010.
- "The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s". Fact. December 1, 2010. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
- "An Introduction to Norwegian Disco". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- "A short guide to Norwegian space disco". Red Bull. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- Baines, Josh (2016-04-13). "A Bullshitter's Guide to Cosmic Disco". Vice. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- Hutchinson, Kate (2016-06-09). "Dan Lissvik: Midnight review – suitably eclectic Balearic beat revival". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- "Aeroplane Biography". ResidentAdvisory. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- Lynskey, Dorian (2010-07-29). "Vito de Luca of nu-disco hitmakers Aeroplane on becoming a one-man band". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- "Lifelike". Storms DJs. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- Mutton, Troy. "Porsches - Horses (Lifelike Remix) [Premiere]". Pilerats. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- "KRIS MENACE : Features - CD - COMPUPHONIC - Forced Exposure". www.forcedexposure.com. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- Andrew Zistler (2017-11-28). "An Interview With LIFELIKE". NewRetroWave - Stay Retro! | Live The 80's Dream!. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- "Miami Horror: All Possible Futures". PopMatters. 2015-05-06. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- "Bag Raiders prep debut album". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- CU; Pete (2019-09-04). "Beatport Updates its 'Nu Disco' and 'Indie Dance' Genre Categories". CU. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- "Coma Cat - Defected". Defected Records. Defected Records. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- "It's Happy, It's Danceable and It May Rule Summer". The New York Times. 30 May 2013.
- Lansky, Sam (October 23, 2014). "Review: 1989 Marks a Paradigm Swift". Time. Archived from the original on November 1, 2014. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
- "Calvin Harris: Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1". Spectrum Culture. 2017-07-27. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- WHETHAM 03/30/20 9:26pm, ALEX. "Dua Lipa's 'Future Nostalgia' is a slightly disappointing nu-disco dance party". www.ubspectrum.com. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
- "Dua Lipa Chart History". Billboard. 2020-05-18. Retrieved 2020-05-18.
- Ruiz, Matthew Ismael. "Studio 54 Launches Record Label". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-05-21.
- "Starter: Todd Terje: 15 Essential Rarities." Pitchfork. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
- Credit To The Edit Volume Two: Sleevenotes | Electrofunkroots
- York, Edward Helmore in New. "Disco's back as Nile Rodgers tops chart again". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
- "Everything You Ever Needed To Know About Nu-Disco: Luke the Knife's To". The Untz. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
- "Disco, Nu-Disco, What's the difference?". Who's Jack?. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
- "Nuphonic Records : Encyclopedia of Popular Music - oi". doi:10.1093/acref/9780195313734.013.71680. Cite journal requires
- "Shut up and sell the hits: Jonathan Galkin on 15 years of DFA Records". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
- "ROCHE MUSIQUE". wanderlustparis.com. Archived from the original on 2015-12-10. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
- "How Daft Punk Saved Pop Music (and Doomed Us All) | SPIN". Spin. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
- "Dimitri from Paris | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
- "RA: Lindstrom". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
- "Every summer is 'The Summer Of Disco': Your essential 'Nu-Disco' primer (part two)". DangerousMinds. 2013-06-07. Retrieved 2015-12-08.