Band of the Day

2012.06.15

Escort

New York City disco revivalists inject hedonistic late 70s/early 80s club music with contemporary flair
A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork, that's the way we spell New York.
lyrics from Cocaine Blues

Escort is a 17-piece disco revivalist band based out of New York City. The seeds of the band were planted when guitarist/keyboardist Dan Balis and keyboardist Eugene Cho met at the upstate New York college Vassar. The pair began producing house singles in the early 2000s, but later decided to recreate the classic disco sounds they were sampling. They released “Starlight” in 2006, their debut single as Escort. A string of additional singles would follow over the next few years, cementing the group as one of the premier players in New York's late 2000s disco revival. Though Escort stayed truer to disco's original sound than contemporaries like Hercules and Love and The Juan Maclean, they provide an fresh update on late 70s/early 80s club music. Escort finally released their self-titled debut in 2012, a collection of their earlier singles and newer tracks. Though Balis and Cho remain the core of the group, Escort has expanded to a 17-piece live act known for their excellent live shows. The current lineup includes, in addition to Balis, Cho, and lead singer Adeline Michèle, 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, Baritone Sax), Nathan Warner (Trumpet), and Ryan Keberle (Trombone).

It would have taken great foresight to predict the success of New York's late 2000s disco revival from the vantage point of the post-9/11, The Strokes-obsessed Big Apple. But it happened, with bands like LCD Soundsystem and countless DJs erupting a disco inferno that had been slowly brewing for years. While most of those groups combined disco's essence with house, techno, and rock, Escort are straight up revivalists. Since their first singles began popping up in 2006, the group has been channeling late 70s/early 80s club music with the propulsive, hip-shaking spirit of the originals.

Escort's self-titled debut, released in late 2011, is actually a collection of excellent singles including “Starlight” (2006), “All Through The Night” (2007), “Cocaine Blues” (2010) as well as new material. The music is undeniably disco: 120 BPM drums, violin cameos, pulsing vintage synths, soulful vocals, but Escort incorporates just enough 21st century touches to breathe new life into the music. “All Through the Night,” which has an absolutely stellar video by the way, is a delirious four minutes of dance floor gold. The groove never lets up, held aloft by burping, bleeping synths and some electro-funk touches that creep into the early 80s (think Chromeo). The spacy Giorgio Moroder synth interludes are perfect, as are the funky guitar and drum breaks, but the real star is vocalist Adeline Michèle. She sounds so cool, sexy, and weirdly focused when she sings “if you wanna me sex me/ I give it up/ when you wanna freak me/ I give it up.” A more recent cut, “Cameleon Chameleon” shows they didn't leave their brightest points behind in 2007. Built on funky, repetitive rhythm guitar and bouncing keyboards, it's got a breezy tropical vibe, perfect for your next completely over the top yacht party.

As their best work frequently does “Cocaine Blues” steals the vibes of the most hoppin' of 1970s disco clubs, but with just enough contemporary flair that you won't wish for a time machine. Michèle belts out, “I've got cocaine, running around my brain” over a disco guitar groove that's so classic you wonder if it's a sample. The bursts of synth that spiral into infinity every bar or so reminds you that Escort exists in a scene that's as indebted to 21st century house as classic disco. But really, this music is so infectiously danceable, and so fluid, that it resists analyses—whatever it is, whenever it was made, it makes you want to move.