“Some need a ship / To take a trip,” Karen Young sings on “Deetour.” The opening track of Horse Meat Disco’s DJ mix, dedicated to the gone-but-not-forgotten Studio 54 days, makes for an appropriate kickoff to 15 disco, Italo and boogie cuts that’ll have you shimmying in your seat—or out of it for an impromptu get-down session on your morning El ride.
In 2003, Horse Meat Disco was founded by U.K. scenesters James Hillard, of now-defunct Nuphonic records, and Jim Stanton, of Jockey Slut magazine. The two quickly established a loyal following thanks to their sweaty basement parties that catered to a diverse cross section of merrymakers: At Horse Meat Disco events, gay, straight, sober, off-yer-arse and just curious partygoers could dance themselves into a frenzy till the sun came up.
To capture the essence of its parties, the team compiled and mixed this collection. A hilariously drug-addled answering-machine message about riding a glass unicorn to a party deejayed by the ghost of iconic Chicago disco-jock Ron Hardy sets the tone before Young takes over. The seamless mix rolls out 70 minutes of classics and rarities, laden with effects, echoes and loops that recall the best of Larry Levan’s legendary sets at the Paradise Garage. Songs fade in and out, with sing-along choruses dubbed out before reemerging over instrumental disco funk, keeping a layered groove that transcends a track-by-track DJ mix.
The duo leaves few stones unturned. It moves from tongue-in-cheek Saturday Night Fevercheese to the “Thriller”-mimicking “And I Don’t Love You” by Smokey Robinson—a refreshing change of pace from the MJ onslaught. Then it shifts gears, moving into the moodier, arpeggiated world of Gino Soccio’s Italo anthem “It’s Alright,” a cut that’s all the rage with the European nu-disco school. The album then heads into the diva-driven mirror-ball funk of the Two Tons’ “I Depend on You” and the ’80s flash dance of Sheryl Lee Ralph’s “In the Evening.” If ever a song deserved a montage sequence, “Evening” is it.
True, there’s a lot of disco here. But Horse Meat Disco still offers a respectable introduction to the underground sounds of the ’70s and ’80s and its resurgence, here and abroad, in the last five years. The only thing missing from the equation is the dance floor.
- Joshua P. Ferguson