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History revision: The art of the disco edit

The controversial practice still shaping modern dancefloors

  • Words: Louis Anderson-Rich | Art: Lawrence Abbott
  • 8 September 2017
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For Greg Wilson, his edits are made from the “mother of necessity”.

“[I make an edit] If I have a track I’d like to play out, but there’s something that makes it difficult for me to programme, perhaps too short an intro/nothing to mix out of, or maybe I love everything about the track, except the cheesy verses that are best left in the past.

“There are lots of great tracks that weren’t made with mixing in mind, so there’s no intro or outro as such to mix into or out of. Then there’s the issue of tempo – a lot of older tracks in the pre drum machine days were recorded without a strict tempo, so quantizing is necessary to put them in time.”

But while they are clearly staples of dance music culture, edits have always been regarded as the black sheep of production practices. Unlike a remix, which uses the original stems of a track and is usually licensed to a producer the artist wants to work with, or a sample which is usually an artist completely re-contextualising a sound, edits walk a grey line between reinventing an old classic while also benefitting from someone else’s art. In 2010, Soul Clap had their ‘R&B Edits’ of a Kanye West and Jamie Foxx tune released five years before, come under heavy scrutiny. It’s detractors called it out as lazy and opportunistic. Others made the point it wasn’t much different to things that had happened been happening in music over the last four decades.

Wilson has said in the past he feels as though it’s every artist for themselves out there and now it’s 2017, that statement couldn’t feel any more relevant. The advent of the computer has changed everything. Producers have gone from working with tape to digital audio workstations. Edits can be knocked up during your morning commute. Tracks don’t even have to be sampled from the original record; instead they can be ripped off YouTube (albeit with the producer opening themselves up to some serious sound quality issues). So does this change the parameters of what can be considered an edit today?

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