Compared to Escort's self-titled album that preceded it by four years, Animal Nature comes across more as the work of a band than of a studio project. The entirety of Escort was driven by founding instrumentalist/production duo Eugene Cho and Dan Balis, and a portion was written and originally recorded before the vivacious Adeline Michèle, the singing and bass-playing dream of a ZE label fanatic, joined the lineup. The more collaborative Animal Nature trails numerous gigs, including a performance in front of thousands at the 2012 Montreal International Jazz Festival.
On their second studio record Animal Nature, Escort’s leaders Dan Balis and Eugene Cho continue the Studio 54-esque party that began with their 2011 self-titled debut. Back in the early 2000s, Balis and Cho met at Vassar College and began making house singles as a duo. Years later, they added vocalist Adeline Michèle, and a 17-piece live band to the mix at their shows.
Escort are to disco what their New York homies Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are to soul: a devoted crew of revivalists unwavering in the belief that their throwback style is as relevant today as ever. Consider how much modern pop is club music, and how busy Nile Rodgers has been lately, and you realize they're right. Actually, post-disco would be more accurate, especially on this second LP: Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Ze Records, Grace Jones and Talking Heads are all touchstones here — acts who took disco's ass-shaking imperative and added lyrical, rhythmic and conceptual smarts.
The seeds of a glorious party soundtrack are contained in the second album by New York’s disco troupe Escort. They have a fine live reputation and the brassy abandon of closer Dancer, recorded during a recent show, conveys the sweaty joy of encountering their 15-piece orchestra in person. Inevitably, some of the studio tracks suffer by comparison; you can imagine Barbarians as an irresistible call to arms in a Brooklyn basement, but it falls a little flat here.
Escort were spawned when Eugene Cho and Dan Balis met at an electronic music class in Poughkeepsie, New York. They began making house singles, gradually adding musicians and evolving into a 15-piece orchestral behemoth. Animal Nature, Escort’s second album, has all the trappings of dance classics of the last 30-odd years: If You Say So has a repetitive rhythm, lyrics about “letting go” and a squelchy bassline worthy of Daft Punk; Cabaret has a Giorgio Moroder-esque pulsating synth, Earth, Wind & Fire horn flourishes and an Italian house-style piano.
It seems like the general public just have an insatiable appetite for disco these days, doesn’t it? Since ‘Get Lucky’ dropped in 2013, disco has been everywhere, and with ‘Uptown Funk’ proving to be one of this year’s biggest hits, for better or worse, it seems like disco revivalism isn’t going away any time soon. Escort, however, have actually been pumping out classic disco under the radar since 2006. But, in a genre so saturated with contributors that even Snoop Dogg has started to dabble, can they do anything on their second album to stand out? On the album, there’s a surprise that comes at you in the form of an admirable disco cover of St Vincent’s ‘Actor Out Of Work’.
Escort originally made their name as an impressively tight live disco band, but there are less traces of those origins on their sophomore album, Animal Nature. This time around they've mixed in more references to various post-disco NYC club sounds, with nods to 80s boogie, 90s tribal house and the gospel-influenced deep house sounds of producers like Masters at Work and Blaze. It's not a huge departure, though, and they still drop a few traditional Salsoul-style disco tracks to satisfy their long-time fans.