Alphabetical Order: S
Stop by B.W.H. 1983 House of Music.
So, then – Italo disco! Yay!? Booo! As a disco head, it’s sometimes a bit difficult to love Italo – the vast majority of it is utter tripe, after all. Compared to it’s black american parent, Italo is a bit thin- the groove is often so straightened out as to become almost non existent. Did somebody say syncopation? Not in Italo, Amico mio. The melodies are derived more from Classical music than Jazz, the vocals can be a real ordeal. Disco is, after all, basically soul music with an emphasis on the 4/4 kick and listening to the Italian variety it’s easy to forget that. Anyway, what am I banging on about? I don’t know, but the underlying point is that finding really good Italo is hard – so much so, that when you do, it stands out from the crowd like a gemstone in a pile of pigshit . Stop by B.W.H is, for my money, the best of the lot (run close by other Italo notables – Mr Flagio’s instrumental mix of Take a Chance and anything by Kano).
B.W.H released just one record, this one – and that’s a surprise because not only is Stop such a banger, but the B-side on the 12” – Livin’ Up is also very, very good. The whole record is shrouded in a bit of mystery as the writing credits are ambiguous and also changed with the many re releases the track received. Involved in and around the production of Stop was Salvatore Cusato aka Casco, who also released the seminal, bleepy Cybernetic Love. Also in there was someone called Paolo Del Prete aka Little Paul and the vocalist, known simply as Helene, as well as a whole host of other Italian men whose names were later dropped from the record. To add to the mystery, there are also two versions of what the name B.W.H stands for, ‘BlackWay and Helene’ and ‘Blackway Horchestra’. Blackway were another short lived Italo outfit with the same personnel who released the semi hit New Life. Confused? Me, too. Usually such ambiguity relating to the credits of a record means someone, somewhere is being royally ripped off. For all I know, I wrote this record myself.
Stop by B.W.H. 1983 House of Music.
And I wish I had, actually, because it’s a perfectly flawed bitter sweet beauty. The synth bass rises up the scale complemented by the tick, tock drum machines and polysynth stabs before the badly recorded piano comes in adding another layer of emotion that is ramped up further still by the weird ethereal vocals of Helene. It all builds into a crescendo and, if you’re familiar with Italo, gets to the point where you prepare to cover your ears as some godawful melody line comes in but – no! It drops back into the minimal arrangement of synth bass, stabs and drum machines and the track is allowed to breathe again before setting off on another build up. First time I heard it I almost punched the air in delight at that point, such was my relief. Here was a very rare thing – an Italo disco track that knew when to hold back. I can only think they must have run out of cocaine or something.
In terms of legacy, Stop came rearing back into the consciousness of a new generation in the mid noughties as Italo started getting aired once again by mustachioed ironiclasts in hipster dives all over the world and subsequently received a slew of pointless unofficial remixes and re-edits. Early detroit techno was also influenced by the futurism and robotics of Italo disco and producers all over the place have revisited the style in the last decade or so. And finally, to add a note of fairness to my italo mocking, I should end by pointing out that a lot of the best American disco and boogie of the early eighties had italian musicians and producers all over it, and more often than not, they absolutely killed it. So – Italo – Yay!
By Joe Evans