Glasgow artrock quartet Amor pick their disco favourites
- David Pollock
- 17 December 2018
Featuring tracks by Gladys Knight & The Pips, Donna Summer and First Choice
Glasgow's least likely artrock disco-punk supergroup Amor, a four-piece collective which includes a Turner Prize nominee and Franz Ferdinand's drummer, are back after 2017's stunning early singles 'Higher Moment' and 'Paradise' with their debut album Sinking Into a Moment on the city's Night School label. Produced at Chem19 and mixed with Golden Teacher's Richard McMaster, its five tracks are delicate, dream-like explorations which move in and out of genres including disco, house, jazz and space-rock. Here, we ask each member to take us through their own disco influences.
Dinosaur – Kiss Me (Again)
This was produced in 1978 by Nicky Siano, a DJ who spun at the Gallery in New York City, and experimental cellist Arthur Russell; it was Russell's first disco record before he went on to make the more iconic 'Go Bang', 'Is It All Over My Face?' and 'Tell me Today'. It's hard to choose a favourite out of those four incredible tracks, but I chose this because it's just such an original and organic arrangement, as well as Russell's first attempt at producing music for the dance floor. It's not clear how big a role Siano played in the production of this – its certainly got a whole lot of Russell's auteur spirit, with two bass players, S&M lyrics, amplified cello and David Byrne's scratchy (and uncredited) highlife guitar. Like all of Russell's stuff there are multiple versions out there, betraying his frantic and often self-destructive perfectionism combined with the commercial pressures from major label Sire to create a dancefloor hit. But Russell and Siano's original mix is the one to seek out.
Gladys Knight & The Pips – It's a Better Than Good Time (Walter Gibbons mix)
Walter Gibbons was the definitive disco remixer, a DJ who started beat-matching and making his own tape edits in the mid-'70s, in order to extend the drum breakdowns in songs while DJing at Gallaxy 21 in NYC. He was eventually invited by Salsoul to go into the studio and make extended 'DJ only' versions of disco songs, the most famous being Double Exposure's 'Ten Percent', the first (commercially available) disco 12" from 1976. Gibbons was skilled at slowly building a track, using plate reverb to carve out a three-dimensional space in the production, and often pushing percussion to the fore and relegating extraneous instruments or vocals to the background. This radical re-editing clearly shows how he brought his experience of DJing to bear on his productions; the way he teases with hints of brass and strings doused in reverb and holds off dropping the bassline until 3.40" is a lesson in restraint.
Kiss – I Was Made for Loving You
Paul Stanley wrote it to prove how easy it was to write a disco hit. It's the only Kiss song I can stomach, and it was written with utter disdain for the genre and all it represents. It came out two months before Disco Demolition Night (at Chicago's Comiskey Park in 1979), where a Chicago shock jock invited sports fans at a White Sox game to bring all their disco vinyl to be blown up. It was a shameless cash-in, basically. But a good one.
First Choice – Let No Man Put Asunder (Master at Work mix)
HUGE tune. I doubt there's a bar in there that hasn't been looped and used as a white label DJ tool, my favourite bar is 'now lemme tell you somethin''. This is the best mix of it – truly experimental, with two minutes of song and the remainder of it all breakdown. It's heartracingly joyous throughout.
Michael Francis Duch
Annie – Chewing Gum
Maybe some Scandinavian disco? I used to play this a lot at our local club venue Blæst in Trondheim. Sadly, it doesn't exist anymore. I guess I spent most of my time there, before having kids; I'd play experimental music there, DJ at night and clean the floors in the morning.
Datarock – Catcher in the Rye
I first met Fredrik Saroea when we both were students. I didn't know about Datarock at the time – I think the band was an art project, initially. Anyway, my friend Kjetil Møster joined the band and I gave it a listen. Both my sons love this song and are dancing to it as I'm writing this…
Donna Summer – I Feel Love
It's obvious, I know, but I remember as a child this being number one, and my only access to pop music was Thursday's Top of the Pops. Donna Summer was never in the studio performing, nor was there a video, just stills. The experience was bewildering in a marvellous way.
Public Image Limited – Death Disco
Is this really a disco record? It's another otherworldly Top of the Pops experience and it changed my life. Just mind-blowing for a young teenager. Both of these records still sound amazing, they're profoundly experimental yet emotionally direct. Summer and Lydon deliver stunning but very different vocal performances that have unique timbres and are completely at one with every other element of these singular productions.
Sinking Into a Miracle is out now on Night School.
Quartet based largely in Glasgow, consisting of Richard Youngs, Luke Fowler, Michael Francis Duch and Paul Thomson.