Italo Disco and Electro Boogie

September 21, 2009 14 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A primer on Italo Disco and Electro Boogie, the fun retro musical genres that are making a second round of waves in indie and dance circuits around the country. While this music began in the 80s, it was overshadowed at the time by pop, new wave, punk, and metal during the decade. Now a new generation of DJ's across the indie scene, like Nick Fresh, are rediscovering and creating an updated scene around them. Here is a Phillip Cardona's guide to the two unique sounds. Check em out.

Italo –Disco:
     “Italo-Disco” was the name given to synthesizer based music originating exclusively from Europe, in particular Italy. Bernhard Mikulski, founder of seminal electronic label ZYX music originally coined the term in the early eighties to give this style of music which was then referred as "Rock Elettronico" and "Balli da Discoteca" a more marketable name.  Italo-Disco, unlike American disco is based on electronic instrumentation; the usage of vocoders, drum machines and keyboards is the key element in the music. The marking of Italo-Disco can be heard in the simple yet poignant lyrics often dealing with romance and love (lost).

For some samples of the Italo Disco sound, check out the following:

Kano:  Another Life

Casco:  Cybernetic Love


     Many Italo-Disco singers choose to sing and write their lyrics in English; as a result many italo tracks have a European-- almost robotic sense of lyricism, lyrics usually become lost in translation causing their grammatical validity to disappear, a naiveté quality which attracts me most to Italo-Disco. Here is an example of an Italo Disco song: Silent Circle – “moonlight affair”.  Check out the lyrics below compared to the video (sorry its one of those youtube album cover visuals with audio) and I think you'll understand what I mean.

Moonlight affair,
Moonlight affair...
Was it love at first sight,
Or was it destiny?  
But since the first time with you
I really know there's another one
When all the world is asleep
I wanna be with you
It ain't worth a single doubt
Maybe I know it cannot last for long
Moonlight affair,
I can feel your heartbeat
Moonlight affair,
I'm just walking round and round
Moonlight affair,
(forever together)
I can feel your heartbeat
(close to me)
Moonlight affair,
(forever together)
I'm just walking round and round
And I walk by your side,
I long for your embrace,

Don't want to leave you tonight
And in your eyes I see the endless space
But soon the moment will break
And you'll be gone away
I don't like to hesitate
I feel your hand,
We know it's not too late
It's no love affair, go on dreaming
Nothing left to share but the moon
It's no love affair when we're leaving
Nothing left to share when you're gone

Here is a live version of the same track, but the audio is not as high quality:



“Electro-Boogie”, also referred to as Synth-Funk, is a style of music that was prominent in the early to mid eighties nationally in the underground clubs.   Stylistically, its origins can be traced to New York City around1980.

But it wasnt exclusive to NYC: scenes with the boogie sound exploded both nationally and in Europe, most notably California.     The Golden State band Midnight Express recorded what is generally thought as the seminal electro boogie track:  ‘danger zone’.

Boogie, emerging from the aftermath of 70s disco kept certain elements of disco while also being influenced by Italo, mixing elements of early electronic and the 70s disco sound.  

Probably the key elements you will hear in Boogie music are the down stroke grooving guitar; synthesizer laced back rounds and a funky vocal and lyrical approach. But, crucial to the mix is the thumping-bass driven sound that is omnipresent in Electro-Boogie.

Notably, the men in boogie singing cover such topics as regretting a lost love or pleading for that special someone to come back. Women singers often express their sexuality and desires without hesitance, not afraid to mask emotion. As were the times, boogie has a very ‘eighties’ feel, so if you’re a fan of the eighties and enjoy disco-influenced music boogie could be for you.

Here are some great starter Electro Boogie videos:

Evelyn "Champage" King.  Love Come Down

Of course Evelyn King was a bit of a star during the era, its great to see her music get a second life.

The Rah Band:  Clouds Across the Moon.

Most people have never heard of the Rah Band, another 80s group, but in this track especially you can hear that they were way ahead of the trends that led to acid jazz and experimental.  The opening sounds are 10 years before United Future Organization's, "Future Sounds" tracks, and 15 years before Yello recorded "The Moon is On Ice."

Still the contemporary vocals are pure 70's.  It's really a beautiful piece.

Midnight Express:  Danger Zone