With three and a half decades of history and a scene that stretches across the planet from the deepest basements to the top of the pop charts no history is ever perfect. After all, terms like deep house, tech house and jackin’ house mean very different things to different people, and the definitions have shifted over time.
The elements that make up house music were all there as the ‘70s dawned, and the primacy of the DJ became paramount. What started with David Mancuso’s Loft parties in New York was later turbocharged by Nicky Siano at his legendary club The Gallery and Larry Levan at hotspots like Paradise Garage and Studio 54.
The studio tricks of edit scientists Tom Moulton, John Morales, François K, Walter Gibbons and company became crucial: cutting and splicing master tapes to deconstruct and extend disco grooves, increasing the sound’s rhythmic repetitions. Particular Latin syncopations went through Salsoul and into ‘80s freestyle. European synthesiser and rhythm machine experimenters like Kraftwerk and Cabaret Voltaire were starting to enter into a two-way dialogue with black American dance music, which itself had already been dosed with sci-fi sound by Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Bernie Worrell.
You can hear the beginnings of house back in 1977 in the sequencer-driven repetitions of Donna Summer’s Giorgio Moroder-produced “I Feel Love”, and the synth bassline and use of space on First Choice’s album track “Let No Man Put Asunder”, a tune that would be both remixed by Frankie Knuckles and endlessly sampled by everyone else as house music properly emerged.
In Europe, you can hear the groove bubbling through the drum machines, from pop on Yazoo’s 1982 “Don’t Go” through synth psychedelia with Chris & Cosey’s 1984 “Driving Blind”, Italo disco on Klein & MBO’s 1982 “Dirty Talk” and Alexander Robotnick’s 1983 “Problémes D’Amour. These tracks were played all over and are still played today.
House Music is a feeling, but it is also a many-splendored concrete reality that’s been woven into the lives of millions of people’s lives. And that is going to remain the case for a very, very long time.