Review: Zen and the Art of Disco

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Sav Remzi's London label, Tirk, has busied itself for the past half decade exploring the outer limits of the contemporary-disco world. And with a compelling discography that boasts releases from the dub maestros of the Idjut Boys, edit king Greg Wilson, Richard Norris's Time & Space Machine project and Balearic beatsmith Sorcerer, it's done far more than chronicle the sound. Instead, Tirk and a handful of like-minded labels—Permanent Vacation, Prins Thomas's Full Pupp and Mike Simonelli's Italians Do It Better among them—have helped create a distinct aural language, one that pays homage to the glory days of the late '70s and early '80s, while refurbishing the genre for a generation raised on house and techno. (That they've done so with a healthy dash of careening humor certainly hasn't hurt.) Longtime fans of Tirk will already be snatching up the imprint's new compilation, mixed by the U.K.'s DJs in the Sky—but for those new to the label or the sound, Zen and the Art of Disco serves as a potent primer.

The mix kicks off in stately synth-disco mode with Architeq's remix of"Chinatown," by the early-'90s Italodisco group Cruisin' Gang. It's an apt introduction to the set, with its minor-key chords and bubbling acid-house bleeps setting the stage for the disco variations to come. And though synth-disco is the main motif here, there is plenty of deviation in the set. The Permanent Vacation mix of Woolfy vs. Projections' "Neeve" is a lush amble through a swampy dance-floor jungle, its percolating percussion drenched in damp reverb; Altz's "Olympia Rocks" layers twangy guitar over a funky platform-shoe beat to fine effect; and the melody of Bottin's "No Static" has the wistful-optimism thing down cold. Actually, forget that whole contemporary-disco tag—this is simply beautiful music, presented with love.

Buy Zen and the Art of Disco on iTunes

See more Album reviews

Zen and the Art of Disco (Tirk)