Various Artists, Disco Not Disco 1974-1986

Chuck Eddy

By Chuck Eddy

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

What's most intriguing about the obscurities and classics on this compilation of off-the-beaten-track, turn-of-the-’80s dance music is their diversity. In an age when musical subcultures that were mere footnotes in their day are available at a flick of the mouse, the once-unfathomable New York punk-salsa of Konk and skronk-disco of James Chance, and Delta 5's likeminded all-girl Leeds art-student punk-funk, might strike a few cranky collectors as over-exposed oldies by now; the Eight-Mile-as-Autobahn innovations of A Number of Names'Detroit techno precursor “Sharevari” (heard here in its instrumental mix) might conceivably draw a shrug from jaded rave historians as well.

Rhythm-obsessed oddities from nearly every corner of the world. Just don’t call it disco, OK?

But every one of those tracks is an essential milestone even dabblers should hear, and this sampler's less frequently heard highlights — Vivien Goldman's bittersweet Brit-bohemian laundry love story, Sprockety German-Spanish and Belgian-Italo crossovers from Liaisons Dangereuses and Kazino, fusion/prog/electro experiments from Isotope and Material — map out an omnivorous, geographically spread-out scene whose pretensions never come off humorless. Add in plenty of naively rigid British rapping and a couple high-register kiddie voices dueting with low-register robots, and it's no wonder the liner notes reveal that several of these rhythm-obsessed oddities became hits on actual non-new-wave dancefloors.