An good intro can really make the song. It can set the mood, erasing whatever else is around you and make you feel safe from the world. These songs work because they are incredibly funky and use the impossible elasticity of the synth to great measure.
Another reason these songs still feel fresh is because they represent an era where music and technology had reached a new apex. Stevie Wonder’s synth work in the 70’s is considered by many to be the most influential of it’s era, thanks in part to his work with Tonto’s Expanding Headband and their TONTO synth (watch this little documentary), which allowed the funk to show through the machines.
These songs honor that legacy in different ways.
Produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of the all-time best disco band Chic, this was a UK chart hit but never on a US album save for a low-key soundtrack. Not as synthy as the rest, but about as good a pop-disco track as you’re likely to hear, skanking along at an easy clip.
The Brothers Johnson – Strawberry Letter 23
A funky version of Shuggie Otis’ deathless original, this cut is synth and bass heaven and helped them reach platinum status. Produced by Quincy Jones no less.
Dexter Wansel – Life On Mars
Dexter Wansel was on Gamble And Huff’s famous Philly International label. Ann Arbor/Detroit legend DJ Carlos Souffront sold me this re-issue at Osborne’s record store in Ann Arbor years ago and it never sees the shelf. The cut breaks into some super funky disco heat, but that cosmic intro makes this one truly staggering.
Yarbrough and Peoples – Don’t Stop The Music
Greatest bassline awards #1 and sits between genres pretty niftily. 1980 was a MONSTER YEAR for synthy funk, the R+B charts were producing some great tracks, fast and slow. Boogie music is getting some love thanks to revivalists like Dam Funk, and with good reason. Feel this video.
Hello, ISO Massive. I’m Sam – Scott and Jakub may have mentioned me before as SV4. I’ve worked with Jakub for a long time at Ghostly, and I have the distinct pleasure of releasing Scott’s work as Tycho on my label. Today, Scott and Jakub have humored me with some column space.
My musical history is all over the place from Hip-Hop to Italo to IDM to Funk, and i’d love to bring some of my favorite lost/forgotten gems to the table…
What i love about the ISO50 headspace is that it evokes a long-forgotten, if not imaginary, past. To my ears, these songs all share that elusive quality: it’s music from a time you think you remember, but were never alive to see.
Paul Hardcastle was a jazz guy with an electro hip-hop influence; dude was nice with a drum machine. You can still hear “Rainforest” and “19” on both late-night urban radio and at your dentist’s office. Daniel Wang put me onto this track and I later found the LP at a used-record store in Berlin. I’ve never found the opportunity to DJ with it, but it’s amazing to pretend there’s an audience that would want to get large to this.
Paul Hardcastle – Stop The Clock
Mike Oldfield is best known as the guy who made “Tubular Bells,” the eerie synth classic which was later adopted for the Exorcist movies. This cut is amazing – it makes you want to drive a speedboat as slow as it will go and watch the coastline.
Mike Oldfield – Foreign Affair
The Alan Parsons Project catalogue has some of the best “dad pop” of the ’70’s and ’80s. Parsons, a studio wizard with a great beard, was a production maverick and could write an amazing hook (“The Eye In The Sky” will make you feel like you’re at the mall waiting for your mom to run errands circa 1985). This track became big in disco DJs’ crates because of its endless groove and largely instrumental composition.
The Alan Parsons Project – Mammagamma [Instrumental]
Marc Moulin is criminally underrated and passed away last year. He is perhaps best known as part of the pioneering Belgian electronic group Telex, who have been immortalized by their Italo-style classic “Moskow Diskow” Moulin’s Placebo Years CD was reissued a few years back by Blue Note in Europe, but it deserves a much wider re-release. Moulin’s own work is more on the jazz-fusion side, but it’s heavy on the electronics, which is probably why he’s been sampled a lot – especially by J Dilla.