Dance music has seen some peculiar personalities and oddball genres in its time, but none quite like Italo disco. The high camp offshoot of its American forebears, Italo was born in the late 1970s, spawned from the hi-NRG sound made famous by the likes of Bobby Orlando, Patrick Cowley and Sylvester. Powered by drum machines like the Oberheim DMX, Roland synths and vocoders, the idiosyncratic genre brings the sleaze and the cheese in equal measure, leaving the dance coated in an ’80s cocaine sheen. Some of the music is amazing; some of it, not so much. The lyrics rarely make sense either, but soaring synths, propulsive bass lines and space age sonics have fuelled a diverse Italo canon that’s as alluring as it is strange.
Bizarre and occasionally bordering on plain daft, the sleeve art can be as odd as the music itself. Chintzy sci-fi aesthetics and seedy, fantastical designs are present in abundance, regularly borrowing from outlandish artistic movements, including dadaism and surrealism. Sadly, they also have the potential to be misogynistic or just straight up racist, but a Discogs seller going by the name of mjb has compiled a list of his favourite sleeves for a first hand glance into the mondo bizzarro.
Dating from 1982 to 1986, we’ve picked out a few that caught our eye for your viewing pleasure. Among the selections are a few classics too; from Time’s ‘Can’t You Feel It’ to the spacewalk epic, ‘Xenon Galaxy’, and we highly recommend whacking on the latter while you browse.