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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

"aNYway" is house formed straight from its disco roots

Duck Sauce create "disco's revenge" by sampling the genre that preceded it, paying tribute to New York in the process.

If you're a regular reader, by this point you know my love for 70s music, fostered by my parents through their record collection and radio station selection. Now, you can't talk about the 70s without talking about disco... but I haven't talked about any until today, when a deep disco cut is the genesis for the 2009 house tune I'm adding to my Senior Year Soundtrack.

I have an interesting relationship with disco, because my parents aren't huge fans of it, but they like a lot of the material from which disco took its greatest influences. Then I come into the picture, and as a lover of house music — as legendary Chicago house progenitor Frankie Knuckles fittingly called it, "disco's revenge" — and I look at disco as the genesis of so much of the 21st-century sounds I enjoy. Meanwhile, it took me a somewhat long time to come around to disco itself, but I most definitely have done so. I love Giorgio Moroder's productions (and I talked about one of his more rock-like forays recently in "Call Me"), and Nile Rodgers' guitar magic draws me to Chic whenever I hear one of their songs like a moth to a flame.

However, disco does remain a weak spot in my 70s music knowledge. Part of this may come from disco being a broad genre and me thus thinking of tracks generally regarded as disco as being something else. The other part of it, though, is that, despite me having come around to the style, I don't often seek it out because I have other music at the front of my mind. The latter is likely why I didn't know of Final Edition's 1979 song "I Can Do It (Anyway You Want)" before house duo Duck Sauce sampled it to create their debut single "aNYway." The capitalization in the title is a nod to New York City, where Final Edition and Duck Sauce respectively were and are based.

Boston-born Armand van Helden has been at the forefront of the New York house music scene since the mid-1990s, and Canadian native A-Trak similarly became prominent in the late 2000s, around the time the two joined forces to become Duck Sauce. The duo's signature sound is the dressing-up of tunes that predated their musical careers — usually disco tracks — into house through chopping up the original song, boosting the bass line, adding forward house percussion. It's this sound that launched them into the mainstream the year after "aNYway" with "Barbra Streisand" (sampling Boney M's "Gotta Go Home").

Whereas "Barbra Streisand" and other productions only sample a short section or two comprising of a few measures, in "aNYway" Duck Sauce make use of a much longer sample, consisting of the entire pre-chorus and chorus of "I Can Do It (Anyway You Want)." The first half of the pre-chorus is repeated two extra times before a build into the chorus on its final measure, which gets longer each time it's heard, and then the tune launches into its chorus and the title lyrics therein. It's this rarer treatment of a sample that made me so intent on writing about my connection to disco first, because I hear "aNYway" nearly as much as a disco track as much as I do house music. The nature of their sampling on the track makes it feel like Duck Sauce are curating disco to fit their vision rather than bringing in a completely new, perhaps unrelated creative voice. Through their curation, van Helden and A-Trak allow the source material to shine through.

The repetition involved in the production also magnifies small artistic choices Final Edition made. My favorite example is the splash cymbal hit after each singing of the "time after time" line. In the original disco track, the hit, much like the rest of the pre-chorus, is a minor detail. The pre-chorus in "I Can Do It (Anyway You Want)" is short, especially in proportion to the rest of the seven-minute song. In "aNYway," however, Final Edition's pre-chorus is the verse, and as such the section becomes much more prominent because of its looping and place in the track structure. The splash cymbal is thus an indelible part of the groove, and when I (try to) dance along to "aNYway," I make sure I hit along with the cymbal every single time.

"aNYway" captures so much of what I love about dance music. Duck Sauce recognized the quality of a deep disco cut, then elevated it using a style that would quickly become their signature. They let the sample speak for itself, and through it they created a bridge between disco and house that captures the best qualities of both genres.


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