What happens when fear, instead of hitting your stomach, takes a loop and smacks you on the ass? I don't know either, but the following four horror disco tracks attempt to find out.
Cerrone "Supernature (12" Version)" - One of the best disco tracks of all time is also the scariest -- go figure. France's Cerrone made song after song of plush, highly orchestrated disco, but in 1977, he dropped this Eurodisco track that was just about as pioneering as Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's "I Feel Love" (note the dual bass lines of "Supernature," one live-sounding one and one that's electronic and arpeggiated -- if this came out in 1980, we could say it was tangible evidence of disco's conversion from traditional instrumentation to being electronically programmed; since it came out in 1977, we instead just say wow). The brilliance of the actual track aside, the lyrics detail an attempt at genetically engineering flora that ends up inflicting the fauna with an insane vengeance. ("Once upon a time / Science opened up the door / We would feed the hungry fields / Till they couldn't eat no more / But the potions that we made / Touched the creatures down below / And they grow up in a way / That we'd never seen before.") Why Cerrone thought anyone would dance to a don't-mess-with-nature tale is dumbfounding -- that it actually works so is practically inexplicable. Maybe God was on his side, too?
Anyway, the track is made even scarier by the album cover. Aaaahhhh! Rubber masks!!!!
Legowelt "Congo Zombie" - I don't know why it never occurred to me that two of my favorite Italian imports of the late '70s/early '80s (disco and horror) should be combined, but I'm glad it happened. I'm not sure if the Netherlands' Legowelt has a specific reference point on this track from 2004, but the cheap his atmosphere falls totally in line with the sounds of grindhouse cinema. The feeling that he gives you that his rotting synths may collapse mid-song as his disco beat pounds is more effective than anything on last year's Disco Undead, a spotty compilation that attempts to disco-ify the scores of obscure horror, including themes from Italian "classics" like Lucio Fulci's The Beyond, Dario Argento's Suspiria and Ruggero Deodato's reviled Cannibal Holocaust. The compilation fails as often as it succeeds, as not all of the tracks are danceable (it's probably no coincidence that one of the tracks that works -- a revamp of the Halloween 3 theme -- is by Legowelt, as well). "Congo Zombie" is a non-stop pummeling that not even the geeky narration can undermine -- by the time Legowelt is chanting "Congo, zombie" repeatedly, he's hypnotizing. This is no dead undead disco. "Theme From Friday the 13th Part 3 (12" Version)" - Of course, you didn't need to travel to Italy (or even the Netherlands) to soak in the cheesey disco -- Jersey's own Michael Zager (of "Let's All Chant" quasi-fame) helped write and produce this for 1982's 3D installment of the Friday the 13th series (it's uncertain, though, exactly who the performer is -- the film's composer, Harry Manfrendini, gets a co-writing credit, Ed Newmark gets a co-production credit, and various releases have attributed the track to being performed by, alternately, the Michael Zager Band and Hot Ice). Despite its robust bass line, this is as corny as the theme of a 3D movie needs to be, featuring the "cha-cha-Jason" call among its seeming thousands of effects. I mean, it kind of had to be over-the-top to accompany this kind of title sequence:
It's almost hilarious how the movie will take any opportunity to flaunt its 3D technology. Something like this I can understand:
But a yo-yo?
OK, I do admit that the last one is really a clever use of technology. Just like the theme.
Paul Johnson "Dr. Frankenhouse" - Sometimes, the freaks don't come out at night, they enhance it. Chicago (where else?!) producer Paul Johnson made tracky tracks for years before giving his music the boost of gimmickry that has made his past few 12"s so addictive. On 2003's "Dr. Frankenhouse," he compares his production style to that of a mad scientist, and his stream-of-consciousness lyrics are simultaneously clever and slapstick (I especially love his description of his bass line as "dunk-a-dunk-guh-dunk-a-dunk"). He's obsessed with invention, and really, few even attempt to pull of his brand of house with a twist of Italo and a side of soul. "Dr. Frankenhouse," like the Frankenstein story itself, isn't very scary, but it is dorky and completely unafraid to sound stupid. And isn't unabashed foolishness what Halloween's about, anyway?