Italo Disco is the predecessor of 90’s Eurodance, originating in Italy in the 70’s and 80’s. American disco music was already popular worldwide, and Italo Disco was its European cousin, gaining strength even when evil rock fans in America and the UK tried to stamp out disco in the late 70s. Not many of the acts are remembered today (Giorgio Moroder and Baltimora were the only names I recognised in my research), but its influence on European music ever since is very clear, not just in continental Europe but also on major electro-pop acts such as the Pet Shop Boys, New Order and Erasure. Italo Disco songs are fairly simple and cheaply made, with a traditional pop song structure, and often have a sweet sadness counteracting the electronic sounds traditionally associated with parties and dancing and having a good time.
The Italo Disco revival which is currently brewing is ironically not involving Italy very much at all. There are London club nights, a strong following in Sweden (always ahead of the trends), and my personal favourite act, Doe Deere, is from New York.
Sally Shapiro – The first of the new Italo Disco acts I heard about, a few years ago now. Her songs are beautifully atmospheric, reminiscent of St Etienne, or Annie in a moment of serenity. She is Swedish, and popular in the American indie blogging scene, but mainstream fame seems unlikely since she is too shy to perform live. Recommended: I’ll Be By Your Side.
Doe Deere – A New York (via Russia) disco-popper who writes a popular blog, and recently released a brilliant EP. She’s certainly the most poptastic of the new Italo Disco acts, and shows her fandom of Britney, Madonna and even her British sound-alike Sophie Ellis-Bextor on her MySpace page. Recommended: One Touch
Heartbreak – The most successful act so far to come out of the London Italo Disco scene. Heartbreak are a male duo, touring the USA and UK, and releasing their debut album Lies this month, after recognition from The Guardian, Popjustice and many trendier places. The music’s heavier than Sally or Doe, but good for dancing to. Recommended: Regret
Cloetta Paris – Another Swedish act, this time a male-female duo. I wonder if they’re named after Cloetta chocolate? They cite Sally Shapiro as an influence… as well as Da Buzz and Amy Diamond! Secret Eyes, the single, is quite typical electro-pop but other tracks are really fun and different. Recommended: Broken Heart Tango
Sophie Ellis-Bextor – What drew me to Doe Deere in the first place was her similarity to my beloved Sophie, and since she’s working on a new album at the moment, it’ll be interesting to see if there’s a stronger Italo Disco influence than before. Could Sophie finally be cool again? Recommended: The Distance Between Us
Secret Eyes, the album by Cloetta Paris, is out now
Heartbreak’s album, Lies, is released on 22nd September
Sophie’s fourth album is expected in January 2009
Doe Deere’s EP is available now on iTunes
Disco Romance by Sally Shapiro is on CD Wow for £8.99