Despite the dissing it took during its heyday, disco remains one of the most difficult genres to accurately reproduce or update. Playing it straight gets as corny as grizzled rockers recycling Chuck Berry riffs; adding contemporary recording techniques typically turns it into house or techno. Brooklyn’s Escort is one of the very few current practitioners that nails the genre’s soulfulness. Accurately relegating synths to a supporting position and avoiding sampling entirely, this three-member group (that swells to as many as 17 players and singers in the live setting) flavors its human textures with the intricate interplay of real guitars, horns, strings, woodwinds and percussion. Cool and breezy when it wants, steamy and shimmering when necessary, Escort both masters and transcends historical accuracy because it maintains its club-targeted euphoria even while sweating the details.
This isn’t to say that producer/player/songwriters Dan Balis and Eugene Cho, and Adeline MichÃ¨le, the vocalist on most tracks, don’t borrow from the past: “A Brand New Life” briefly dips into Donna Summer’s “Faster and Faster;” “Cocaine Blues” updates Dillinger’s “Cokane in My Brain” – a reggae-fication of People’s Choice Philly R&B classic “Do It Any Way You Wanna” – and “A Sailboat in the Moonlight” invigorates Guy Lombardo’s Billie Holiday-popularized jazz standard with punching horns and squiggly synths. Simultaneously lean and lush, Escort’s funky but sleek underground grooves still go pop: Cuts like “ChamÃ¨leon Chameleon” and “All Through the Night” stack layers of insistent, interlocking riffs until they vibrate with joy; “Starlight” slinks on African-schooled syncopation like prime era Michael Jackson. Encompassing and revisiting eight vinyl single sides, the band’s filler-free debut doesn’t merely work hard for the money: This Escort clearly does it for love.