In 2011, disco’s permanence has never been more apparent. Besides house music’s global, permanent takeover, we see flecks of more retro-minded sensibilities in the mirror-ball mask that trance DJ/producer Deadmau5 sometimes dons, or an “Off the Wall” flair that Ne-Yo will put on a particularly Michael Jackson-inflected track. Meanwhile, the underground teams up with producers, DJs and re-editors who incorporate or replicate vintage dance sounds.
There is perhaps no single example of disco revivalism more succinct than the self-titled debut of the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based band Escort (out this week on their own Escort Records). Escort writer/producers Dan Balis and Eugene Cho, and their vocalist muse, Adeline Michèle, span the breadth of disco subgenres, from Ze Records-style mutant disco to Giorgo Moroder-styled Euro to wiggly boogie. Live drums (edited to fit the modern demand for precision), a real string section and recording techniques inspired by sound engineer Bruce Swedien, the recorder/mixer/co-producer of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” — an “aspirational record,” said Balis — are among the elements that give Escort a technical specificity uncommon in what’s morphed into a synth- and computer-based genre.
“We do spend a lot of time playing the same thing over and over again, just to get those little changes,” said Cho, sitting beside Balis in Cho’s studio in New York’s SoHo. “Those little inconsistencies you feel. Even though you might not hear it on one track, it creates this big picture where it sort of has that organic feeling, even though it’s created today.”
Escort’s album arrives more than five years after it technically launched: The lead single, “Starlight,” was released in 2006. Contributing to the delay are the group’s craftsmanship (Balis rates his group’s investment in sound quality a 15 on a scale of 1 to 10) and their day jobs (Balis does online documentary producing; Cho writes music for commercials). Escort’s album is late to the party, but fashionably so.