Since it’s inception over 5 years ago Lunar Disko, a monthly club night ran by Andy Doyle and Barry Donovan, has placed Italo Disco as one of the main reference points in their music policy. So how has this quirky European off-shoot of late 70s Disco come to find a home in the Irish capital? Kenny Hanlon’s our tour guide through it’s history.
Italo Disco took it’s cues from the increase in the usage of electronic hardware by American disco producers such as Giorgio Moroder, the man behind the classic Donna Summer’s track, ‘I Feel Love’. The genre took a more stripped back and mechanical approach to Disco. For some, this was a simple case of utilising what was on offer to them; drum machines and synthesisers replaced the big studios and orchestras of it’s lavish American counterpart. The result was a quirky, spaced out, “cosmic” sound with weird but catchy paeans, which to this day is one of the most attractive elements of the music. So Italo emerged as one of the first strains of dance music to be mostly comprised of electronic sounds, with live instrumentation all but being abandoned. It was an early glimpse into how dance music would develop in the 80s.
The music would go on to garner huge mainstream appeal throughout Europe especially as it became more refined and polished. It was one of the precursors to the type of svelte, 80s pop music produced by the likes of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. More interesting was the impact it would have on the dance floors of America, most notably those in Chicago.
Italo found it’s way into the record boxes of such legendary Djs as Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy. The collage of sounds that these DJs brought to the dancefloors of Chicago would play a major role in influencing early house music pioneers such as Jamie Principle who adapted the usage of drum machines that Italo helped popularise. From the jacking percussion of Capricon, the rolling groove of Alexander Robotnick’s Problems D’Amour to the tweeked Tr303 acid of Barry Mason’s Body, this little oddity would cement it’s place in dance music history.
While house would go on to conquer the world Italo would find itself going down an ever increasingly cheesy pop route and by the mid 80s the gems were few and far between. It would languish in obscurity until a group of Dutch Djs and producers would bring the music to a new generation at the turn of the century.
For many, the start of this revival can be pin pointed to one Dj mix “Mixed Up In The Hague Vol.1” by Ferenc Van Der Sluijs, aka I-F. Lost Italo classics where once again find themselves lighting up dancefloors and concurrently a new breed of Dutch producers would infuse their music with blatant Italo references and sounds. The fact that many of the original Italo tracks were often one hit wonders released on obscure labels meant that some of this vinyl started trading hands for fairly extreme amounts of money. Something which is bound to bemuse some of the original artists, who’s careers rarely extended past a couple of 12 inch singles.
Lunar Disko not only showcases original Italo but within it’s bookings and parties it has joined the dots between the Chicago house sound and the modern influence Italo has had on various producers. It has introduced Dublin crowds to Dutch producers and Djs such as Mr Pauli and Intergalactic Gary and house legend Tyree Cooper. They also introduced the world to Wicklow based producer Automatic Tasty via gigs and their Lunar Disko Records imprint, which will hit it’s 10th release next year with a new 10 inch by Mr Tasty. As dance music became increasingly self important and pofaced the naive, lovelorn sounds of Italo strips this all away and it’s unpretentious pursuit of the dancer is why it will continue to garner new fans on a daily basis; it won’t be disappearing again.