Rich synths, lush strings, funky bass lines, angelic vocals, and dance-worthy beats mingle in this 21st century genre
Stemming from the brand of French House pioneered by artists like Daft Punk, the genre I like to call DIGITAL DISCO is one of my favorites. Like the name suggests, it draws on elements of disco and electronic music, leading to earworm potential unlike any other genre. My first encounter with the genre came through French producer Breakbot’s 2012 album By Your Side, which also happens to be one of the best examples of the genre.
The album opens with “Break of Dawn”; a pretty standard disco instrumental, that while catchy, doesn’t seem special aside from the modern coat of production magic. On the next song, “Fantasy,” Breakbot samples “Break of Dawn,” and shows what Digital Disco really is: vocal sample chops, a four on the floor drum rhythm, electronically manipulated strings, funky bass, synthy riffs and fills, and upbeat and catchy vocal melodies about dancing and love. From this second track, Breakbot sets the tone of the entire album (and genre, in my opinion). This album is absolutely amazing; from the hot guitar tone of “One Out Of Two,” to the groove oozing out of “By Your Side Parts 1&2,” to the radio-hit-worthy “Baby I’m Yours,” this album is thoroughly enjoyable from end to end.
From the French Breakbot, we’ll now move to German producer, singer, and songwriter Roosevelt. Similarly to Breakbot, Roosevelt’s 2016 self-titled debut takes on digital disco; it feels more poppy than Breakbot’s work, with an 80s synth-pop sheen defining the sonic qualities of this work. This album is full of bangers worthy of blasting on repeat. “Night Moves,” “Belong,” “Moving On,” “Colours,” and “Hold On” are all worthy of special attention.
Deserving of a mention, yet much more digital than disco, is French house group Justice. From their debut, Cross, (which, fun fact, was made entirely in Garage Band) Justice defined themselves as an experimental powerhouse. Stand out songs from this album include “Genesis,” “D.A.N.C.E,” and “DVNO.” Justice’s third release, Woman, is definitely my favorite release of theirs. Sometimes called their response to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, Woman feels the most human. Including more vocals, recorded instruments, expansive strings, synths, and studio tricks, leads to a take on disco unlike anything I’ve heard. The opening track, “Safe and Sound,” is a great example of the weird not-quite-disco, not-quite-house, not-quite-EDM space that Justice often falls into. Some other striking tracks include “Alakazam !,” “Fire,” and “Randy.”
Conclusion and Playlist
From it’s not-so-humble beginnings in the 70s, to its widespread revulsion in the 80s and 90s, it’s time for a disco revival. Incorporating elements of electronic music into disco, as these three artists do, is clearly a recipe for compelling music. Hopefully we’ll see more digital disco in the coming years! For a playlist of the songs mentioned here plus some more, click here.