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Various Artists 

Disco Not Disco 2 (Strut)

Wednesday, Jun 19 2002
In the late '70s and early '80s, while the rest of the world was boogie-oogie-oogieing to music by the Bee Gees and Evelyn "Champagne" King, adventurous DJs in New York were subverting the mainstream by playing edgier, punk-informed dance music. Spinning free-form psychedelic epics and rigid electro oddities, dance floor pioneers like Larry Levan paved the way for the Chemical Brothers and other modern club heroes.

Like its predecessor, Disco Not Disco 2 collects a handful of classics from the New York underground. However, while the first volume focused on live musicianship, this second compilation acknowledges producers who created their own sound worlds using advancing technology. Spanning the years from 1974 to 1986, the collection seamlessly blends forgotten club faves like Alexander Robotnick's modern-sounding "Problemes D'Amour" with more well-known fare like the Clash's "This Is Radio Clash." Covering artists from all over the Western world -- including Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and the U.S. -- Disco Not Disco 2 presents a unity of ideas not necessarily present at the time each track was recorded.

The album kicks off with Laid Back's "White Horse," a song to which countless modern dance artists owe a debt. With its lean production, alien blurps and bleeps, and huge bass line, the 1984 tune is a virtual blueprint for last year's smash Basement Jaxx album Rooty, as well as practically every recent production by the Neptunes (Britney Spears, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Mystikal).

Some of the more exciting numbers are from artists not normally associated with discos. When it was released in 1982, "This Is Radio Clash" seemed like an atrocity to the group's punk fans, but now it feels revolutionary. Legendary Kraut-rock act Can also appears, with a sinewy tune called "Aspectacle (Holger Czukay Edit)" from its self-titled 1978 album. The funky song fits nicely between the relentless sprint of Yello's "Bostich" and the loose spacecapades of Material's jazz-funk effort "Ciguri."

The freakiest tracks come courtesy of the Coach House Rhythm Section and underground oddball Arthur Russell. Coach House's 1977 trance-inducer "Timewarp" -- which was the work of Eddy Grant, who eventually scored a massive hit with "Electric Avenue" -- laid the groundwork for house music with its heavy, repetitious beat and spaced-out effects. Russell's "Let's Go Swimming" is equally hallucinatory and groundbreaking, with a bleary-eyed drums-and-effects bridge and synthesized vocals.

As new electro artists like Adult., Felix Da Housecat, and Miss Kittin burn up the clubs these days, Disco Not Disco 2 is the perfect place to see where these artists got their ideas. And as for the question of whether the music is disco or not disco, the answer is yes.

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Cory Vielma


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