Manuel Darquart
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Nightlife

Manuel Darquart's 10 essential Italo disco records

The sensual, sleazy sound of the '80s Italian discotheque is back in vogue again. The Netil Radio residents open their record box and reach for the very best Italo disco.
Written by Phillip Williams
4 min readPublished on
The disco sound swept the world throughout the 1970s, but nowhere did it find quite so warm a reception as it did in Italy. Of course, in Giorgio Moroder, the country featured one of the disco sound's great auteurs. But Moroder was hardly the last word in Italian disco. On the contrary, the nation's clubs thrived with home-brewed productions that were often cheap and cheerful, but somehow perfected that special alchemy of joy and melancholy that characterises the best disco songs.
Italo is having a moment once again, and right now there are few advocates for the sound as dedicated as Manuel Darquart – aka New Zealand-bred, London-based DJ/production Louis Anderson-Rich and Sean Whittaker.
We asked the pair for their favourite Italo disco floor-fillers. Read on for their pick of the genre's very best..

1. Firefly – Love Is Gonna Be On Your Side

One of Italy's best disco acts on the country's best label. Emergency was home to so many jams including this one. The computers hadn't completely taken over yet, but there's something about the hi-hats that just give the simple two-chord funk a bit of a metallic, dancey edge. Simple and effective.

2. Tom Hooker – Dove Andiamo

A real cute little stepper which again came from a more innocent time for the Italian disco scene. Ripping off a lot from Surface's Falling In Love (those keys), the best thing about this tune is it comes in Italian and English. In English it's called Talk With Your Body, which doesn't make much sense, so it's the Italian tongue that turns it for us.

3. Loui$ – Pink Footpath

We're a duo and one of our names is Louis so this was always going to make the cut and the dollar sign in the name was just so ahead of its time. It's also a massive tune with dancefloor destroying drums, some super funky guitar lines and a really melancholic chord progression. Loui$ also looks like Tommy Wiseau from The Room.

4. Clio – Faces

Really getting into the thick of Italo now, Clio's Faces perfectly toes the line of cheese before things started getting really silly in the mid-80s. The bassline still has a certain amount of sleaze, the drums still have that gritty, compressed tightness perfect for the floor and the chorus takes you to another dimension.

5. Plus Two – Stop Fantasy

Probably one of the first Italo tracks we really took note of. One of our good friends copped the repress in 2016 and we've been bugging him ever since to give it to us. But he won't. Delightfully understated Italian take on boogie, with a thoroughly funky bassline.

6. NOIA – Stranger In A Strange Land

This one was a big fave in Chicago and you can see why. Italo was a huge influence on early house and it's tracks like this that showed young producers what could be done with a drum machine, some reverb and a synthesiser. Great chugging bassline, wild stabs of vocal and some histrionic piano make this a slammer.

7. Gaznevada – IC Love Affair

Another mid-tempo jam on Italo powerhouse label – ZYX Records. The synth work is straight out of the Moroder handbook, but it's paired with a really prominent Rhodes that gives it that easy funk, rather than a soulless cocaine disco feel. The bassline also literally has the perfect timbre.

8. Jock Hattle – Crazy Family

A dash of Hi-NRG Italo from Jock Hattle. This tune is guaranteed to make a party at least 80 percent more fun and the B-Side bangs a bit more too as a DJ tool. Rumours have it this is where Lou Bega was inspired for the lyrics to Mambo No. 5.

9. Rah Band – Messages From The Stars

This is sleazy, Italo boogie at it's absolute finest! A futuristic take on jazz-funk, the Moog leads are so funky they're honestly too much to handle. Tie that in with those aloof vocals, a spooky sci-fi bridge and a samba-vibe breakdown and you got a weird mish-mash of Euro-not-Euro themes and it's all just wonderfully 1985.

10. Sabrina – Boys (Summertime Love)

The year is 1987 and you're enjoying your gelato poolside in Puglia. We've reached peak Italo-pop. This track is a slice of total kitsch but it's the one track on this list you won't be able to get out of your head.