Nu-disco is a weird term. For starters, it’s not really new, considering it first appeared over a decade ago. And of course, there’s also the spelling. Is new that much more cumbersome to spell than its alternate, edgy consonant + vowel equivalent? Although, there’s something to be said about abbreviating a three-letter word.
Using “nu-disco” as a superset genre for several upcoming of artists also poses its own set of problems. How to describe the next wave of this category? New nu-disco? Nu-nu disco? Nu disco squared?
Let’s just skip the labels and talk about the music.
Here are three bands that often fall under the aforementioned category, but delve into more original territory using analog sound, multiple instruments, and funk and boogie-based influences. Most importantly, they’re getting people dancing again outside the realm of strictly electronic music.
First up, there’s Midnight Magic, a relative veteran on the scene. Formed in Brooklyn in 2009, Tim Sweeney named their track, “Drop Me a Line” on his list of top tracks for that same year, but their first EP wasn’t released until 2011 on German label Permanent Vacation. In their own words, Midnight Magic is “a nine person ensemble bonded by the unwavering desire to make you, the listener, and the rhythm become one; the secret love children of Donna Summer and George Clinton serving up an orgasmic feast of funk, disco, electro and soul. Amen.
While all the band members’ names probably aren’t familiar to you, their sound might be, considering its core musicians, Carter Yatusake, Morgan Wiley, and W. Andrew Raposo are former members of Hercules & Love Affair. Citing Donna Summers and Grace Jones as influences, it’s unsurprising the band’s frontwoman, Tiffany Roth, is a stellar vocalist, boasting an effortless range and stage presence seldom seen. She may be the sole woman in the ensemble, but her vocal power has the rare balance between force and seduction that could knock you off your feet in a number of ways. While their first full-length album, Walking the Midnight Streets, was self-released digitally last November, while Permanent Vacation released a compilation of tracks from their LP and EP earlier this month, just in time for their US tour with Holy Ghost. Some might argue Midnight Magic falls more on the old school side of nu-disco--which I suppose would make it “disco.” Or just really good music.
Next up is Body Language, also based out of Brooklyn. Often described as a fusion of “soul-pop” and “electro-dance,” if there is one word to sum up their sound, it’s danceable. Band member and producer Grant Wheeler describes their approach as pushing genres to their limits within an “indie-disco bubble.” (Not to be confused with nu-disco.) Composed of Wheeler, Angelica Bess, Ian Chang, and Matt Young, Body Language’s music is often catchy, happy, and sometimes summery—but these descriptions overlook their raw, musical talent. A quick listen to slower tracks like I’m a Mess, and What’s the Point? on their recent sophomore release Grammar instantly reveals a strong R&B influence and the full-depth of their range. And even when other songs border on the more sugary side of synth-pop, the result is so genuine, so unapologetically likeable (not to mention well-executed), dancing feet will oblige.
Lastly, moving southward down the East Coast, there’s Psychic Mirrors, categorized as neo-funk and Miami Boogie, (yes that genre does exist), boasting an impressive 10 (+) members and even more impressive beats, the group blends horn sections, synths and heavily 80’s-influenced vocals to produce some seriously sexy tracks. Technically it’s really not nu-disco--but it’s an easy umbrella for their music to grow under. The band consists of all native Floridians, led by frontman Mickey de Grand IV, who apparently did solo work under the pseudonym Kabuki Iron Kolors, serving a self-described “time traveling space wizard.” I’m still not sure what that means, who he is, or who the I, II, or III were, but based on his work with Psychic Mirrors, I feel like he’s probably pretty cool. Signed to local Miami label Cosmic Chronic, their EP Midnight Special came out last month through Peoples Potential Unlimited, who will also distribute their sultry single “Charlene.”
Nice to know there’s new music out there keeping the disco spirit alive, whatever way you want to spell it.