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Favorite ThisEverything You Ever Needed To Know About Nu-Disco: Luke the Knife's Top 10 Definitive Disco Tracks

Published: January 16, 2014

By: Luke Miller

Note from the Editor: Ever since we found out that we'd be hosting the Silent Disco at Aura Music & Arts Festival, February 14-16 at the beautiful Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL, it got us thinking about the disco revival (many call it nu-disco) that's been gathering steam for the past few years. Besides its ties to French House and the Ed Banger label--we knew practically NOTHING about the genre. So we needed some help.

Thankfully, our buddy Luke Miller came to the rescue. Fans of The Untz know him as a member of seminal post-rock act Lotus (headlining AURA), and many now know him as Luke the Knife, his disco alter ego. Luke was kind enough to break it all down for us into easy digestible chunks AND give us his Top 10 artists who are producing this type of music. We'll let him take it from here, and make us look like geniuses.

Everything You Ever Needed To Know About Nu-Disco - Luke MillerJuly 12th 1979 in Chicago, a mere 6 days before I was born and only 140 miles to the north, the most famous promotional night in baseball took place – Disco Demolition Night. Crowds four times the normal size stormed Comiskey Park to add to an enormous pile of disco records that were burned in an explosion during the game. It was the height of the backlash against the phenomenon that had swept the globe through the 70's. In the US disco was no longer cool. The Village People were played at weddings, not at cool parties. The BeeGees were a punchline for their clothes, hair, and un-masculine singing voices. People had enough. Disco was dead.
Or so we thought. In Europe disco didn't die. It became more mainstream and less funky as Europop. In New York disco didn't die. It seeped back into the underground with gay culture. In Chicago disco didn't die, it cannibalized and looped back on itself and re-emerged in warehouse parties as the darker house music. EDM has brought electronic music to the forefront of youth culture. Now disco is coming back into the popular conscious and Nu-Disco is starting to emerge as its own genre entirely, perhaps as a cure for the hangover of EDM excesses.

Some Facts

  • Newton's Third Law of Physics - For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
  • In November 2011 Skrillex was nominated for 5 Grammies.
  • In April 2013 “Get Lucky” was on Top Ten charts in 32 different countries 
Nu-Disco had a breakout year in 2013. Some of the biggest hits – Daft Punk's Get Lucky, Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, Bruno Mars' Treasure (largely stolen from Breakbot's Baby I'm Yours) Drake's Hold on We're Going Home – all carried trademark traits of the genre: a “four-to-the-floor” beat, tempos between 110 and 125 BPM, a happy and danceable tone, and a mixture of real and synthetic instruments.

Like any genre categorization the term Nu-Disco is a bit nebulous. The Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said when trying to define obscene pornography, “...I know it when I see it.” The same can be said of Nu-Disco especially since it's sound isn't anything radically new. The roots go back to the disco of the 70's and 80's with new pin-point production, a byproduct of modern technology. An entire categorization of Disco Edits (and Re-Edits and Re-Rubs) has sprung up taking original disco and funk songs and updating them with much more low end, heavier kicks and backbeats, and more loop-based grooves. But Nu-Disco is something different than that, more than just an updated remix of an old disco song.
Nu-Disco is a relatively new term in and of itself. Beatport only added the category in 2008. Much of the funk that strongly influenced the original disco sound is fading away and being replaced with lush synth chords. Strong pop melodies are replacing disco chants, and synth basslines are replacing the octave popping disco lines. The sound has become smoother, more seductive, more refined. For me the biggest thing that distinguishes Nu-Disco is how people dance to it. With dubstep there is raging, hands moving up and down, and slight “stinky face” look, with electro-house arms are raised, and jerky gesticulation occurs. But with Nu-Disco the dance movement is more in the hips, everyone has a smile on their face. It's sexy music that just keeps grooving. There aren't huge builds and big drops; it's the happy tantra of dance music.      
With Soundcloud, Facebook, and YouTube music is becoming less parochial. And Nu-Disco is one of the more universal new genres. It doesn't have one center of popularity. While the US is a bit behind in recognizing the genre compared to Europe and Australia, many hot producers are popping up in the States. While more tropical places (LA and Australia) might have a bit of a predilection toward the sunny side of genre, darker places like Norway and Minneapolis enjoy escaping the cold with the warmth of the sound. Let's take a look at some of the key Nu-Disco artists.

Flight Facilities - Australia - signature song: Crave You
Flight Facilities
This duo of producers has a very laidback tropical sound. They often work with guest singers  and definitely tend toward the pop sound. Because of that, there are lots of remixes of their  tracks out there in various genres.
Similar artists:  Miami Horror, Jack Thomas

The Magician - Belgium - signature song: I Follow Rivers Remix
The Magician
Formerly half of Aeroplane, The Magician is mainly a DJ but does remixing and some original  production. His monthly Magic Tape series of hourlong mixes is very popular on  Soundcloud and amongst bloggers. His sound veers more toward European pop and club stuff,  but his ear for new material and artist coming out is top-notch.
Similar artists: Aeroplane

Todd Terje - Norway - signature song: Inspector Norse
Todd Terje
Todd Terje has a funky style that often utilizes analog sounding arpeggios. He frequently works with fellow Norwegian producer Lindstrom. Most tracks are instrumental with long slow builds and breakdowns that you can easily get lost in. 
Similar artists: Shit Robot

Breakbot - France - signature song: Baby I'm Yours
Breakbot's sound always contains throwback elements to the 70's and 80's. Rhodes chords adding jazzy voicings to disco beats. He resurrects those elements that might sound dated and puts a fresh spin on them. He's not the most consistent track to track, but more unique than most.
Simliar artists: Shook

RAC - Portland - signature song: Hollywood


The Nu-Disco remix king. RAC has kind of a simple formula for remixing pop leaning tracks into a Nu-Disco sound. Every track he releases is pure blog bait with impeccable production. Many of his tracks sound similar, but he is very good at what he does. He has started delving into original tracks, which is definitely harded than remixing known hits, but RAC might have the skills to pull it off.
Similar artists: Goldroom

Gigamesh - Minneapolis - signature song: Tongue Tied Remix

Gigamesh loves Michael Jackson and Chic, you can hear the influences in most of his tracks. He does killer remixes and always adds a funky and fun element to the original song. His tracks always light up a dance floor. Gigamesh has been apearing at many festivals, so his name will probably be popping up more and more.
Similar artists: Drop Out Orchestra, Pyschemagik

Poolside - Los Angeles - signature song: Do You Believe

The duo behind Poolside are more on the indie side, but their name perfectly encapsulates the sound. Very chill tunes with elements from the 70's and 80's adding a nostalgic haze. As singers they manage to find perfect little melodies to fit around their sparse instrumental tracks. (Full discrection Poolside is opening for Lotus at the Fillmore in Denver Feb. 6th.)
Similar artists: Holy Ghost, Tanlines

Viceroy - Los Angeles - signature song: Dream of Bombay

Viceroy's tagline is Summertime All the Time. It's a tropical vibe for sure. Some of his tracks        lean toward more of a college beach party sound. He does a lot of remixes, which are consistently very popular with the bloggers. Still young, his sound will defintely grow a lot in the years to come. I could see him breaking out as an in demand producer for fledgling pop stars.
Similar artists: French Horn Rebellion, Ghost Beach

Classixx - Los Angeles - signature song: Holding On

These guys have a perfect balance between club ready and smooth sounding tracks. They do original production and remixes with equal aplomb. They lean toward more synthesized sounds, but usually throw in the perfect slap bass, or piano sound. They are booked for Coachella this year, so watch out for Classixx to break out big in 2014.
Similar artists: Moonboots

The Knocks - New York - signature song: Modern Hearts
The Knocks

Prior to working on their own stuff The Knocks were working on beats and remixes for some of the biggest pop artists. So they are definitely more cued into that world. But their Nu-Disco sound combined with the pop influences is a killer combo.
Similar artists: Oliver

While some of these artists have racked up high placing songs on the charts, millions of YouTube views, and tens of thousands of Soundcloud followers, none has broken out as a big concert act. There isn't a Deadmau5 of the Nu-Disco scene. It's a genre that hasn't hit the high schools, living with a slightly older crowd that wants to feel something more than a bass blast to the chest. But it's not trying to be underground or exclusive. Nu-Disco wants to hug the world with a happy sound that makes people smile and dance and love. It's a deceptively simple genre. Simple in its parts, but deceptive in that the difference between making a nu-disco song and a nu-disco hit is vast.

Luke the KnifeI played the first Luke the Knife show in December 2012 with Denver Disco at Bar Standard. I had never done a DJ gig before. My original idea going into getting LtK started was to bring the fun of funk and disco into the club environment. I felt nervous before going on stage, something that hadn't happened in almost a decade. But the gig went great, people seemed to really like it. Through 2013 I was able to play at Electric Forest, Sonic Bloom, festivals on the west coast, east coast, and throughout the Midwest. I was playing mainly edits and remixes I had made of songs I liked. Throughout the year I got better at mixing between the songs, pacing my sets, building momentum, and holding the vibe when the crowd was locked into the groove.

The more I played the more I started mixing in more Nu-Disco tracks. During those tracks people had the biggest smiles, they were the tracks people commented on the most at the end of the night. Songs with a great vocal hook paired with an undeniable yet simple beat that just made people groove. I did a Lotus after party in NYC where I played for nearly 3 hours, and this was after 2 full sets of the Lotus. When I finished at almost 4 in the morning the crowd still wanted more. Once you enter the sunny tractorbeam you don't want to leave. Every part of it is built to go on and on, from the four-to-the-floor beat, to the circular chord progressions, to the repeatable vocal hooks. That's the power of Nu-Disco.

Find Luke the Knife online

Tags: BreaksHouseElectroLivetronica