Italo disco and the (early) demoscene

Italo disco and the (early) demoscene

Lately I’ve come across some music genres with Italo Disco is one of them. I was also part of the (early) demoscene in the early 90s on both Amiga and PC. Back then I composed a lot of music which mostly was, of course, inspired by existing demoscene music. I never realized it back then, but the similarity between Italo Disco and demoscene music is striking! I’ll try to explain this with some background and some examples.

Italo Disco!!!

The Italo Disco started “officially” in 1983 when a German recordlabel released a record with Italian disco hits under the name “Best of Italo Disco”. Italo Disco was well known for its synthesizer sound combined with disco. Of course artists from other countries started doing Italo Disco as well, Modern Talking is one of the best known groups/artists from outside Italy. The Italo Disco age ended around 1988 when House entered the discos and was later superseded by what we know now as Japanese Eurobeat.

Example of a cracktro

The demoscene started out with small loaders before games, like for instance when they cracked a game (also called cracktro). This happened on the Commodore 64, Amiga and also on the PC. Around 1986 the first real demos were made on the Commodore 64 and shortly after the Amiga followed.
In the late 80s and early 90s the PC was finally catching up since it was finally capable of doing “decent” sound with the arrival of the Soundblaster. Soundblaster was later on superseded by other cards like the Pro Audio Spectrum and the Gravis Ultrasound, but the Soundblaster is the card that should be credited for this. The early demoscene ended around 1995 when demos started to get more professional and less hacked together. Also the demomusic shifted more towards trance and rock around that time.

Similar names
On the PC the group Future Brain Incorporated (FBI) was one of the best well known groups who started with creating loaders for the PC. Den Harrow performed (intentionally stress on performed) the song Future Brain back in 1985. The music of Den Harrow and FBI is quite similar. Also Purple Motion of the Future Crew released a song called Future Brain (not the same song).

After Dieter Bohlen quit Modern Talking (also very Italo Disco) he collaborated with Caroline Catharina Müller to form C.C.Catch together: he did the music and lyrics while she sung. In the US one of the most famous demogroups was Renaissance and their sound was quite well known through their musician called C.C.Catch. Not surprisingly their music is very similar.

The Amiga demogroup Complex released their first PC intro under the name Gazebo at The Party 3 (1993). The Italo disco performer Gazebo had not similar sound as the tune by Complex but his music could best be described as early demo music. Perhaps one of the Complex member was a big fan of Gazebo??
Cyboman by Gazebo. Winning 64K intro on The Party 1993

Also the Dutch coder called LaserDance had a very similar name to the Dutch Italo Disco group called Laserdance.

Similar music
One of the great improvements for the PC were the soundcards. One of the popular soundcards was the Gravis Ultrasound which was able to do 32 polyphonic channels (later we discoverd it actually did 19) at the same time. It was delivered with some standard software which included some modules and a mod player. One of the modules was called spa.mod (Space Debris by Captain/Image). This module had won at Assembly 1991 and is almost an identical compilation of the music by Koto (Visitors, Jabdah)

You can see Koto in action here:

If you listen to P.Lion I hear a lot of familiar demoscene sounds. P.Lion is, just as most demoscene musicians, happy with octave alternation and portamento slides. When listening to Happy Children it is almost as if I hear an unreleased Screamtracker module by Purple Motion

Other similar artists are Glass Candy, Digital Emotion and Clio.

As you can see in timelines the demoscene picked up the Italo Disco just around the time that Italo Disco died. The demoscene never really got into the early house and gabber and waited for the more sophisticated trance to make a shift.

Perhaps you can see it as the same underground movement which was also made by the Japanese Eurobeat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *