We take a look at the floor-filling genre of Nu Disco.
In 2008, popular dance music download site Beatport launched a new genre page: Nu Disco & Indie Dance. Among the best-selling songs on that page at the moment are ‘Underworld (Tuff City Kids Remix)’ by Fayer, ‘Love On Hold feat. Tawatha Agee’ by Aeroplane, and a Joey Negro remix of Loose Change’s ‘Straight From The Heart’.
Great selection of tracks that these are, they still tell us very little about Nu Disco as a genre. To get a better picture, perhaps we should go back to the start.
What is Nu Disco?
The basics of Nu Disco are actually quite aptly described by the name. “Nu” of course means “new”, and Disco means all kinds of Disco music, such as 1970s and 1980s Disco from the USA and 1980s Italo-Disco. The genre of Nu Disco, then, was about a resurgence of interest in these genres, and about artists producing new music inspired by these movements.
Though the Beatport page was created in 2008, the genre of Nu Disco actually emerged around the turn of the millennium. Because of this, it’s no surprise it shares some features with the other major 21st century dance music style emerging at the time: French House, as exemplified by Daft Punk, Cassius and Justice. Since no artist can really be boxed into just one specific genre, many musicians flit back and forth between French House and Nu Disco, Daft Punk perhaps being the most famous example.
But enough about Daft Punk (for now). Let’s break down what Nu Disco really is. One of the early pioneers of the genre is DJ-production duo Faze Action. The duo launched their career in the mid 1990s with the EP Original Disco motion, and they followed this up with the killer single ‘In the Trees’.
‘In the Trees’ has many traits that soon became Nu Disco trademarks: live instrumentation in the traditional Disco mould mixed with modern production features such as synthesizer parts and sound effects. The live elements include a four-to-the-floor Disco drumbeat, a melodic bassline, and classic Disco touches such as string section riffs. The song almost sounds like its own remix, as different parts drop in and out over time.
Thanks in large part to pioneers like Faze Action, Nu Disco rose to prominence, and the genre was a dance music mainstay by the mid-2000s. Artists like Daft Punk blurred the line between French House and Nu Disco, with tracks that sampled classic Disco and mashed it with their trademark synths and robotic voices. Also based in France, Dimitri from Paris was no stranger to the Nu Disco space, often drawing on samples from of obscure non-Disco tracks and giving them a Disco vibe through his own original production.
Like all genres, Nu Disco continued to evolve. Here’s what Nu Disco sounded like more than ten years after Faze Action burst on the scene:
‘Painted Eyes’ by Hercules and Love Affair once again features live drums, violin stabs and a melodic bassline. It also incorporates a synth sequencer inspired by the early days of House music, and a moody vocal part with a classic verse-chorus progression. Tracks like this allowed groups like Hercules and Love Affair to bring Nu Disco back to mainstream popularity and critical acclaim after a small quiet period for the genre.
Where is Nu Disco today?
When Nu Disco was born, its proponents were creating homages to Disco music that was 20-30 years old. Today, the original Nu Disco tracks themselves are 20 years old. Despite this, the genre is still thriving. Many of the original Nu Disco artists have gone from strength to strength. Faze Action were nominated for a Beatport Award in the best Nu Disco & Indie Dance artist category last year, after releasing a string of genre-busting EPs and tracks.
Daft Punk are about to head out on a huge 25-date world tour with, crucially, a full live band at every show. Though the tour’s press seems to imply a Rock n Roll theme, the group’s recent releases suggest the tour will be very Nu Disco oriented indeed. ‘Get Lucky’ for example, still one of the biggest pop hits of recent years, was Nu Disco to the core, with none other than original Disco pioneer Nile Rodgers featured on guitar.
The success of tracks like ‘Get Lucky’ in the mainstream charts shows that though songs may not always be labelled as Nu Disco, Nu Disco can still move the public.