Evil Twin: Italo Disco
Officially the world’s first-ever completely electronic dance music genre, Italo – sometimes dubbed the evil twin of disco – has been around since '77 and hugely impacted house music.
Sabrina in 1988 (Photo: Mondadori Portfolio)
It’s been called trash, treasure – even the evil twin of disco. And disco it certainly isn’t. But there’s a charm to the almost undefinable Italo genre that meant its boom in the 80s is still felt in 2021. Mid-tempo Linn Drum (see: every other synth band in the 80s) created magically weird songs with English words (but def not in English) and probably the best choruses out of any genre ever.
After the death of disco in the US, Europe came to save the day. ZYK was a German label that invented the name Italo Disco. With a hunger for heaving basslines and thumping drums, the appetite for disco, inspired by the likes of Italian super-disco producer Giorgio Moroder, was still massive. Often the production was somewhat geared to and reminiscent of Anglo-Saxon music of the time, like Meat Loaf or Bonnie Tyler.
Life without the WWW
There was of course no internet, so the newest stuff was discovered purely by word of mouth, or heard on the dance floors that had so recently retired disco itself. Thirsty for more saturated, beach-sweat laden glam that was far and away from the suited and booted New Romantics that had dominated the early 80s stage. Italians began reimagining and remixing disco records and audiences just lapped up this new sound along with their trashy, sugary cocktails on sardine-packed beaches. The gay community became the biggest audience when the only Milanese record store stocking disco was situated in the gay district. The idea was that the music was made more for feeling and dancing than for thinking or intellectualizing.
At some point, Italo joined inter-terrestrial forces with Space Disco, combined with Kraftwerk, combined with EVEN MORE SPACE. This is the stuff your UFO-magazine reading freaky-bearded tinkerer neighbor was listening to in the 80s as he fantasized about alien love affairs. Koto by far has the best music videos, but the kings of the genre are Laserdance and Proxyon.
Eurobeat is what happened to a lot of Italo producers in the late 80s and early 90s. As the genre died out, they started to market their music outside of Europe, most notably Japan. The demand grew and soon the music evolved into an extreme-high-speed bubble gum synth explosion that could be best described as Happy Hardcore's stupid stepsister.
For a while, Italo disco went totally out of fashion, but as house and techno emerged, it soon became apparent that the Italo sound had a profound impact on the producers and DJs in Chicago and Detroit. Check out this superfan-curated playlist feat. Gazebo, Sabrina and co and spark new moodagents.
Words by Alexandra Pereira
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