This Escort article was written by Mark Steele, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Fraisia Dunn.
The disco genre began in the mid to late 1970’s in New York and then came to a halt around 1981. Studio 54, the infamous New York nightclub with a celebrated party culture, also saw a rise and fall during this same time period. Disco’s lush orchestration was then scaled down into a more simplistic groove from which emerged two new genres: electro disco-funk and hi-energy. The rise of house music in the late 1980’s, kept that early spirit alive and continued into the early-mid 00’s through genres such as nu-disco and funky house.
Around this time in the early 00’s, a productive meet-up occurred at Vassar college, New York. Escort’s core creative duo made up of guitarist Dan Balis and keyboardist Eugene Cho got together, which initially led to some house singles being released . They later enrolled vocalist Adeline Michele and continued to evolve into a 15-member strong live band to flesh out their tunes on the road. ‘Animal Nature’ is their second album since their debut self-titled album released in 2011. This second album differs slightly from the debut album’s funk based mid 70’s style, as this release utilises a late 70’s to early 80’s disco/synth sound. The production quality on this album is almost flawless.
Legendary producer and Disco game changer, Nile Rodgers, must have felt his funkalicious ears burning when ‘Animal Nature’ – comprised of 10 songs and 9 remixes – opened with ‘Body Talk’. With funky keys, slick strings, locked down synth bass and double hand claps, this catchy tune drags you onto the dancefloor immediately. It has the same enticing quality of 90’s house classic ‘Good Life’ by Inner City.
Similar track ‘My Life’ possesses a Jamiroquai/Chic-ish tasty bass and drum combination with crisp rhythm guitar phrasing. This leads nicely into ‘Temptation’, a very Giorgio Moroder meets euro-disco futuristic space strut, full of well-placed synth hooks.
On ‘Barbarians’, Parliament/Funkadelic meets Ian Dury’s ‘Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick’ . This track shows a strong percussive movement and a call-to-arms anthemic chorus. The opening bars of ‘If You Say So’ carries a classy up-tempo vibe with crisp piano voicings, reminiscent of R&B classic ‘Pillow Talk’ by Sylvia. There is a nice high octave delivered by Adeline in the last line of the chorus, which makes it even more infectious; “If you say so, give it up, give it up/ Like it’s easy, If you say so, live it up, live it up/ It ain’t easy to let go, but I can let go, if you say so”.
The falsetto high vocals on ‘Helium’ accompanied by a hypnotic repetitive loop, is nearer to funky house than disco, whilst title track ‘Animal Nature’ is infectious euro-pop featuring Adeline’s rich and sultry vocal delivery.
The sugary sweet disco pop track ‘Actor Out Of Work’ is as equally annoying as it is catchy, whilst house hybrid ‘Cabaret’ blends old and modern dance vibes with a great chorus. The final track is a decent live performance, a cover of Gino Soccio’s 1979 club hit ‘Dancer’ – check the original for comparison as it is quite close.
This recording as a whole showcases a band who have already gigged the live circuit, and look to continue masterfully re-inventing house and disco into a promising spectacle to be witnessed by those who are brave enough to shake their booty.
Escort initially gave us a dance floor odyssey to transport us back to those Studio 54 nights with their self-titled first album. Now they have added the neon vibrant Animal Nature to the roster, there are is no need to feel guilty; put on your boogie shoes and seriously get down tonight to this neo-nostalgic guilty pleasure.
‘Animal Nature’ is out now via Escort Records.