New York's 17-piece disco orchestra crew, make "boom boom party good time"; from Brooklyn... to your ears.
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IT is with a sigh of relief, that I can turn my focus to something truly...
unique. In terms of geography, style and formation, the featured artists are a bit of a revelation. In the meantime, I am turning my attentions across the Atlantic. It has been a rarity that I have had the opportunity or inclination to extend my psyche across the pond, and explore the U.S. for new musical talent. I have been delighted and transfixed by a couple of L.A.-based bands; each of whom has projected a dreamy and captivating sound. It is a bit of a gamble or risk when you are seeking out new music. If you are based in a particular country- whether it is in England or the U..S- there tends to be a reliance within the media, to promote a country's own talent. The business of fostering and encouraging international talent, tends to a take a territory impotence. Maybe a publication like The Guardian or NME will alert you to some curious and wonderful surprises now and then, but you have to search hard. I have been relieved that there seems to be a pulling away from a homogeneous and narrow-minded focus; a lot of music-lovers and musicians have brought to my attention acts from around Europe, the U.S. and Australia. I hope one day a website, or social media site is created solely, to make it easier to connect with worthy talent from all across the globe. I am sure there are pockets of Africa, towns in Australia, and a western European collective, either or all of whom could be the greatest band I've heard this year. The trouble is, that unless you seem to be ideally placed or 'in the know', it is extremely difficult to seek them out. Until- and even if- that occurs, for now, I shall do my best, to join a small list of U.K.-based musicians/reviewers whom are intent on adding cosmopolitan and variegated sounds to a consciousness, sorely in need of diversification
On the 'chopping block' as it were, today, is quite an oddity: in terms of their sound and formation. Hailing from the bustling and sometimes dangerous streets of Brooklyn, the collective Escort, are intent on being heard and remembered. They are- if you'll believe it- a 17-piece group. They label themselves as a "disco orchestra", and are fronted by lead-singer Adeline Michele. Publications and newspapers around N.Y.C. have dubbed the band as the best live act in the city, and the reviews from their current tour, have seemed to back this up. They have just played in London (yesterday, in fact), and have amassed an army of fans from all around the world. This is in no small part down to their sound. There have not been too many credible disco acts performing and recording since the cessation and dissolution of the scene in the '80s. They released a debut album in 2011, and Scissor Sisters' front-man Jake Shears proclaimed them as the finest disco act you will ever hear. It is quite a golden standard thumbs-up, from a man who current fronts, what I would consider as, challengers and comparable to the group. Escort have been playing and wowing audiences since 2006, and have a wide range of influences, from Prince to The Rolling Stones. The group, in their entirety, consist:
Adeline Michèle - Vocals
Eugene Cho - Keys
Dan Balis - Guitar
Mark Tewarson - Guitar
Jason Kriveloff - Bass
Ben Herson - Drums
Karlie Bruce - Vocals
Joy Dragland - Vocals
Angelica Allen - Vocals
Ernesto Abreu - Percussion
David Freyre - Percussion
Caleb Burhans - Viola, Violin
Pauline Kim - Viola, Violin
Tarrah Reynolds - Violin
Jon Natchez - Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Bari Sax
Nathan Warner - Trumpet
Ryan Keberle - Trombone
You get the sense when approaching their music, that something wonderfully unsettling and inspiring lurks beneath the skin, and is present as daylight on the surface. They are a vibrant and diverse band, whom each have their own style and individual looks; yet when these wide ranging humans combine, the sound is quite phenomenal. You would think, from reading the band description, and seeing their smiling faces, that the music is going to be happy and have the same charm as the classic disco acts from the '70s and '80s. The collective, however, have a deeper appeal, and are not a rehash or tribute to bygone legends and stall-warts. They have the same flair and quality of the disco acts of the past, yet have a modern urgency and innovation: they fuse orchestral majesty with funky and dirty beats. Their songs can elicit fond reminiscences of Donna Summer and European sounds of disco; the group have an attitude and talent that few contemporaries posses, managing to make music in a genre which was popular for a reason, and, if done lovingly and properly, is as relevant and striking now, as it was back then. Disco, of course, may not be to everyone's liking: it is going to be divisive to a certain extent, no matter whom you ask. It is the modernised production, and the quality and intensity in numbers, combined with a gorgeous and intelligent articulation and deployment of strings and classic augmentations, that transcends preconceived notions, and creates a profound and lingering taste.
It is down to business, I guess. The group have a long, and fascinating back catalogue, but is the track Cocaine Blues, that struck my ear the hardest, and compelled me to go into detail: so I will. Beginning with a thumping and pointed beat, that is accompanied by- initially- some lighter, tribal percussion that infuses some multi-discipline sway to the building momentum. When the intro starts to kick up a gear, there is a brief smattering of brass; giving the track an instant feel of Toots and the Maytals, Ian Dury and the '70s disco legends. When our heroine steps up to the mic., she is backed by some funky and campaigning guitar and bass. There is a soul and funk edge injected into proceedings, which again elevates the atmosphere and takes it closer to the heavens. The voice- when it comes- produced by Adeline is fresh and unique. There are some fellow female comparables around the mainstream, whom have a similar invigorating pull to their voice; yet none quite have the same ability to simultaneously sound current and representative of a golden era, at the same time. When the words "Cocaine/Running around my brain" are sung, it is done with glee, and merriment. There is never any deepening or revocation of mood; everything is upbeat and accelerated. The 'cocaine' is elongated and hangs; but the ensuing sound that envelopes it, adds a flash and kick that keeps the proceedings attentive: think Prince-cum-Ian Dury, and you get some sense of what the funky and blissful riff will remind you of. Just before the 1:00 mark, the sound and notation becomes a little darker and moodier; the ensuing passage reminded me slightly of Galvanised by The Chemical Brothers, only less foreboding and menacing. It is quite a shift, but seems natural and integral to the plot. It is simply there to create a bridge from the chorus and the ensuing verse. The driving guitars and percussion, thus far, sound a little like a slowed-down version of Wanna Be Startin' Somethin': there is that same kick and glee, to it. The lyrics that follow, however, break away from any Jackson-esque parables: "A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork/That's the way we spell New York". Instantly there are images of the neon-lit city streets, and the underworld bustling- maybe modern-day, or '70s set. This is repeated, to create maximum effect, and drive into your skull. Whether the group employ this imagery in order to create an air of stability and legality, in view of what has proceed it, or project some invigorating innocence and relevance, is hard to say. The contrast and imagery that is unfolded and prevails, is as startling and refreshing as the musical and vocal components. There are trumpeted and delighted wordless vocal interjections, again adding to the sense of abandon and fun. With the chorus repeated, there is again a little percussive beat- a sort of bongo flavoured edge- which heralds another change in tempo and mood. It is just before the 2:00 spot, that strings are unveiled and perforate the pitched festivity, with swathes of romance and drama. The strings and orchestration is beautifully-composed yet modest: the band do not allow them to go wild or deviate beyond a stable path. They weave and play off of the percussive beats well; as a repetitive coda of "I don't wanna stop, no no" is presented. The kick and dance is still there, and it is a further emotive swagger. Where as, previously, New York had been given a culinary and alcohol-infused pairing; Chicago is next up: "Chicken in a car, the car won't go/That's how we spell Chicago". The language and style of the lyrics remind me of the best days of Ian Dury and The Blockheads: there is a similar eccentricity and effectiveness. Whereas Ian Dury has a sardonic and loveable lower register, filled with nuance and unique inflection, Escort are more populist and regulated. They are reminiscent of a Detroit-via Chicago blending of soulful blends and mystique of the streets. The oblique lyrics of the verse succumb to a wordless chorusing. It is continued, riding on a wave of energy and cocaine-infused bliss, before stopping... dead.
The group- all 17 of them- know what a great sound they have. They have been playing the cities and towns, for many years, and have been received fervently internationally. I was only alerted to them a few days previous, with them being touted as a 'new band', by The Guardian. It is quite disturbing when a group this good seem to circumvent the public consciousness in the U.K. It is not the band's fault, but that of the press agency, whom are responsible for showcasing talent, and making aware the existence of the most exciting and brilliant acts. Given enough reappropriation and dedication by certain bold, and daring outlets, the days of stumbling upon fantastic music, will- I hope- become a thing of the past. Just like disco itself, the days of just simply being aware of this type of music, has died a similar death. Consequently, with Escort bring it make into the mainstream and making it popular once more, there should also be a game change in the media. It is not simply good enough to subjugate popular opinion and demand, when it suits; nor be contented to feature solely U.K. talent. I adore the British music scene, but there is a butt-load of prodigious and genre-pushing music like Escort's over in New York. There are some brilliant sounds in Sweden and Spain, I can say for a fact; yet, how do we ever know about them? I hope at least Escort won't slip through the gaping cracks of the media's singularity and diffuse attention. I am just glad I have heard them. With slick production, a unified gravity in the band that is at once stable and concrete, yet playful and endeavouring, is something that is not being proffered on these shores. Jake Shears got it half right, when he said they were the best disco band now- and perhaps of all time. The simple fact is, that in less than a couple of years from now, they may be one of the most popular...
AND influential bands, in the world.