Italo renaissance sparks electro-music rethink

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated May 28, 2009 at 6:11 AM EDT

Once considered to be the poor relation of the international electronic scene, south European dance music's history is now being favourably revised as today's cutting-edge artists mine its rich legacy.

French global superstars Justice, Daft Punk and Yelle can all trace their roots back to Mediterranean Europe's unique take on American disco and early electro which developed in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Central to the development of Eurodance and American house music was Italo, an Italian genre which fused disco's euphoric and exuberant heart with the rapidly developing technology of the late 1970s.

English/Argentinian duo Heartbreak, who are spearheading Britain's new found appreciation of Italo, highlighted its importance during an interview with AFP.

"Italo is an essential part of musical history, it was absolutely integral to the development of house music," charismatic frontman Sebastian Muravchik claimed.

"I would say that without Italo, house music may not have developed."

Despite its great influence on pioneering dance DJs in Detroit and Chicago, widely recognised as the birthplace of house music, Italo struggled to gain critical acceptance internationally.

It also went widely unnoticed that it was a group of Italian disco producers who brought about one of the biggest upheavals in modern pop music by bridging the gap between disco and electronica.

Integral to this was legendary composer and arranger Giorgio Moroder, who wrote and produced Donna Summer's 1977 seminal crossover track, "I Feel Love."

"It's a very interesting part musical history that people don't know so much about," Muravchik said.

"This early Italian phase of arrangers and composers who went to America to work with big orchestras for disco songs and and they did all this astonishing work. The arrangements are superb."

More light-hearted than its American equivalent and less brutal than the developing northern European techno scene, Italo and its more electronic Eurodance derivatives were seen as lacking substance.

"Britain felt it already had lighter electronic music with the Human League and the accents were mocked," the Argentinian bemoaned "There's a lot of mild prejudice, ignorance and a lack of musical understanding."

"People don't understand that underneath the surface it was very punk and DIY. It was intended to be commercial and it's annoying to see more mediocre, but so called refined, music getting success."

"I see a parallel with Italian film director Sergio Leone who suffered so much and received so much criticism at the time before he received respect." he added.

A lot of the credit for changing perceptions can be directed towards I-F's 1997 Italo influenced hit "Space Invaders". This song spawned the electroclash genre which catapulted Canadian singer Peaches and Belgian duo 2 Many DJs to international respect.

Although attitudes are changing, it is still the northern European take on the genre which receives the most plaudits with acts closer to its Latin heart still fighting for recognition.

Singer Muravchik revealed that he and band mate, Ali Renault, face a battle to win over audiences during their live shows.

"It often takes three or four songs until people start to get it. At first they can't make sense of it, they think it's cheesy but then realise there's more to it and that there's an element of performance art involved.

"There is a lot of really bad Italo but people need to distinguish between the gems and the rubbish. In good Italo there is so much emotional depth which is very subtle.

"People are realising there's a point to it, it's not just flat and frivolous," he added.

Heartbreak are currently touring as part of the NME magazine Radar Tour and will play Barcelona's Sonar and Glastonbury festivals over the summer.




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