Some may think disco died in the early ’80s, but one DJing duo has proved these people are mistaken. With the release of their debut album “Quack,” Duck Sauce has brought disco music back into the spotlight. Comprised of two DJs, Canadian A-Trak and American Armand Van Helden, this electronic production duo has injected new life into a genre three-and-a-half decades past its prime.
“Quack” is a dance album through and through fusing the contemporary vibe of house music with the vintage sensibilities of disco and, stylistically speaking, it makes a variety of twists and turns. Starting with the grungy, tech house styles of “Chariots of the Gods,” the album also experiments with rap-centered hip-hop in “Charlie Chazz & Rappin Ralph.” With bizarre synth work and soulful doo-wop sample, tracks like “It’s You” exemplify how Duck Sauce tries a different take on the sounds of modern house music.
The best songs of the album are its three central tracks: “Radio Stereo,” “aNYway” and “NRG.” Infused with uplifting energy, these songs flow smoothly combining ’80s-style vocal samples with happy little melodies. Meanwhile, “Everyone” and “Ring Me” have a slightly more instrumental touch, utilizing piano notes to supplement their eccentric rhythms. Then comes the worldwide hit and dance floor classic “Barbra Streisand” (2010), which samples heavily from Boney M.’s “Gotta Go Home” (1979). For the final two tracks of the album, Duck Sauce reverts back to ’80s-style pop, tricky synth work and samples. “Spandex” is celebratory and fun, but it is the final number, “Time Waits For No One,” that strikes a slightly melancholy note. With the closing words “Time waits for no one” and “Don’t waste a moment,” the album solidifies its theme of partying and having fun while it lasts.
Ultimately, the album is a bit of a one trick pony. “Quack” sacrifices substance for fun; fortunately for them, this doesn’t detract greatly from the listening experience. The album is goofy, groovy and entertaining. But certainly, the album’s greatest flaw is its one-dimensionality, and, because of this, “Quack” feels a bit stretched. After 30 minutes, the disco/house formula starts to sounds a bit stale: looped samples and quirky vocals can only sustain a listener’s interest for so long.
However, it’s best not to judge this album just on its musical ingenuity. Duck Sauce’s debut album is 54 minutes of energetic, funky music. It’s a killer dance floor record. And, in a way, this is what makes it so special. Today, DJing is too often about image over substance. It seems like there are very few people left in the electronic music industry these days who value the interplay between DJing and music production. But A-Trak and Van Helden are dance music pioneers dedicated to the DJing art form, and together this duo has decided to take the genre back to its roots.
Indeed, “Quack” is an old school record. By trawling through record libraries and unearthing fresh samples, Duck Sauce has pieced together a groovy record that could replicate the freshness of a ’70s dance floor, fusing it with the modern touch of modern house. It feels like much of dance and DJ culture has become a commercial, event-driven loop, so when artists stay true to what they do and focus on having fun rather than promoting themselves, the results are truly laudable.