I discovered the Sarcastalites – not really a group as much as it is one woman with a studio, a lot of groove, and an immense amount of talent at her disposal – through a single track contributed to the Raymond Scott cover album The Portofino Variations (of which more another time), and the disco-flavored cover version of Scott’s gem of early electronic music stood out as my favorite thing on the album, so I wanted to find more. That search led to this EP-length BandCamp release, which, it turns out, is even better than Sarcastalites’ excellent Raymond Scott cover.
The whole idea behind Sarcastalites is a throwback to disco’s heyday. Admittedly, this may not be a thing that a lot of people are consciously pining for, but the seven tracks on Spaces For Strangers attempt to distill the best things about that genre of music and then to boil those ingredients down into something new. The best disco always had one foot in R&B and funk, and most of these songs show that songwriter & performer G.T. Thomas totally gets that. Stylistically, Spaces For Strangers is steeped in late ’70s disco, which was starting to play with the kind of electronic elements that would be taking over the following decade with the advent of new wave. But the backbone of each song is the real deal – bass, guitars, drums, all bringing that funk back where it belongs.
There isn’t a weak song on the EP, but there are some that are real standouts – “Advice”‘s sparse instrumentation lets the slinky breathless vocals command center stage, with lyrics complaining about the singer’s overbearing gal pal, who “gives terrible advice” before the bridge of the song becomes something modern and trippy. “Strange Nostalgia”‘s lyrics reminisce about the singer’s first mind-expanding experience of listening to a particular band’s records (Yes, in this case), with some great wah-chicka guitar work fading and phasing in and out. “Three Degrees” is a bit more Blondie than Chic, with lyrics obsessing over – of all things – DVD commentary tracks, and referencing The Manchurian Candidate. Thomas might be reviving disco, but she’s doing it on her own terms and with her own subject matter.
“Party People” may be the purest slice of the sound most people associate with disco here, with “Earth Is For Friends, Space Is For Strangers” following closely behind. It’s worth pointing out that each track has its own unique sound, a result of Thomas engaging the services of different sets of ears – all women, by the way – to mix each song.
If there’s a disappointment involved with Sarcastalites’ debut, I guess it’s the fact that it hasn’t caught fire and led to a follow-up yet. But that’s why I’m writing this right now to bring it to your attention so we can change that. It’s a tremendously enjoyable set of songs to which more people need to be exposed.
- The Real Thing (3:21)
- Sand (3:43)
- Party People (3:03)
- Advice (3:16)
- Earth Is For Friends, Space Is For Strangers (4:16)
- Strange Nostalgia (3:51)
- Three Degrees (3:51)
Released by: Bullshit Night Records
Release date: December 8, 2017
Total running time: 25:08