A short introduction to… nu-disco

Music and Art

Since the ’90s, disco music has been making a comeback on the dance music scene, especially in France. A great deal of disco music since then has been referred to as ‘nu-disco’, often consisting of classic funk vibes combined with more modern electronic dance sounds. The establishment of labels such as Ed Banger Records brought current big names to the forefront, such as Justice and Breakbot, who helped develop the new futuristic shift from the classic disco grooves of the 1970s. Other artists, such as Todd Terje from Norway, have stuck to more classic disco music.

In the last few years, the disco rise has generated even more momentum, with tracks like Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ and Bruno Mars’ ‘Treasure’ climbing the charts. Electronic disco has also become a new addition to the online electronic dance music (EDM) revolution. And now with new labels and channels sprouting up on YouTube and SoundCloud, it has become easier for upcoming disco producers and artists to get heard, helping the genre to expand and branch out.

DiscoThrill, an independent music label based in Lille, France, has been a key outlet for the nu-disco sounds erupting from the underground, beyond the big names of the likes of Daft Punk, Madeon and Justice. It was started up as a YouTube channel in September 2012 by Sofiane Chehih, who was later joined by Victor Adbib, and swiftly developed into a record label, launching in March 2013. It has been steadily gaining a following ever since. Through its YouTube channel, the label aims to promote the newest ventures into disco music. DiscoThrill aims to expose tracks with a synergy of electronic and funk elements, rather in the same vein as artists such as Breakbot.

DiscoThrill’s artists have showcased some excellent remixes of mainstream pop, dance and indie tracks. Marlin provides an upbeat bouncy twist on Cassie’s R&B track ‘Me & U’, as does Funk LeBlanc with ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’. Laurent Delkiet brings out a vibrant and refreshing take to Zedd’s pulsating house anthem, ‘Clarity’. Novel reshuffles on original disco songs are abundant on the channel, too: a personal recommendation is Color K’s mesmerising remix of ‘Get Down On It’, originally by Kool and the Gang. On top of that, you can find a broad range of innovative original works: from Sam Padrul’s bouncy ‘All I Do’ to LeMarquis’ chill-out track ‘Something New’, DiscoThrill have found disco rhythms to suit a wide range of moods and tastes.

More recently, DiscoThrill have created compilation volumes and have begun to host label nights across cities in France, including Lille, Paris and Toulouse, to allow upcoming disco producers to get more recognition.

I interviewed Victor and Sofiane to get a better idea of what DiscoThrill was all about, and the direction DiscoThrill – and the new wave of disco music in general – might take.

“At the moment DiscoThrill is a part time project,” they said. “As college students we study alongside everything we’re doing with DiscoThrill, which has led to a severe lack of sleep! Victor finishes at college in a month, so if it continues to grow, we would love to make it a full-time job.”

I ask them about the day-to-day process of how they find artists and new music. “It tends to vary,” Victor told me. “Marlin, Baptiste MCMXCI and LeMarquis are old friends [of ours]. Sofiane puts a lot of effort into looking for new artists on places such as SoundCloud, and some great artists get in touch with the label themselves. We then seek to foster relationships with our artists so that we can continue to promote their work.”

Over time, it seems that the duo have created a “family bond” with their artists – a great sense of community fostered by their shared love of music. Sofiane notes that he predicts that Funk LeBlanc and Mogul are set to be key players this year on the disco music scene. “We think the entire DiscoThrill Records crew has something great to offer, though!” he adds.

Currently their biggest focus is introducing their artists to a wider audience. They’ve also recently done a collaboration with Kitsuné, another French record label, in releasing LeMarquis’ remix of ‘Real’ by Years & Years. “We’re interested in working with other labels to spread disco music. We hope to grow structurally, with our own space and studios, like Kitsuné.”

I asked if they had found live events to be a useful tool for the label. “We’ve had success all over France,” they said. “We are definitely looking to promote abroad, though – we’d love to come to a place like Oxford in the UK at some point!”

It’s clear that Victor and Sofiane have great faith in nu-disco being readily accepted around the world. What of other electronic genres, though? “Although disco’s comeback has been part of a general movement, along with other experimental styles like deep house, we think that funk/disco culture – and music in particular – will always have the potential to expand,” they explain. “There’s always a way to improve it, and to mix it with modern music and other styles, like rock, pop and even hip-hop. Nu-disco is the perfect representation of this: it’s never been as great as it is today, and we hope to do our best to contribute to this craze.”

The pair both enjoy listening to other genres, too: hip-hop, pop and rock. “We intend to stay focused on disco music, though,” they tell me. “We have been told to perhaps venture into deep or minimal house because it sells more, but we really enjoy focusing on disco. We’re certainly interested to see the new directions in which nu-disco might progress, and what new cross-genre styles could come about. Some of our artists have also been into this: Baptiste MCMXCI has a particularly electronic flavour, LeMarquis has a more pop sound and DiscoRazor experiments with elements of G-funk.”

Their appreciation for their followers is clear, too. As a final comment, they tell me: “We’d just like to say thank you, and also thanks to everyone who made DiscoThrill what it is today. We hope that others might be interested in what we have to offer!”

DiscoThrill has been a part of a bigger movement in dance music. In contrast with other EDM ventures such as electro house, drum and bass and trap, nu-disco explores a more retro dance style. Other labels and music promoters that delve into disco music have sprouted up recently, including Funky Panda and – to a more limited extent – Monstercat. These have a more upbeat electronic range of disco tracks, compared to DiscoThrill’s more relaxed selection. Funky Panda also works to promote other forms of retro dance, such as electro-swing, an interesting fusion of electronic dance with 1920s swing.

It’s a very exciting time to be a dance music producer. Retro fusion styles, especially nu-disco, are starting to stand as equals with established genres such as techno. Web platforms such as YouTube and SoundCloud have made it much easier for new sounds to be heard. Labels like DiscoThrill promote artists that, by remoulding the ’70s disco sound, could indeed become a far more significant addition to dance playlists over the next few years. With events such as Discourse, Oxford has started to develop a disco scene itself. Hopefully in the near future we’ll be seeing more disco and other exciting alternative dance nights around town.

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