Filter-disco house music—whether by Chicago house artists like Paul Johnson, or French ones like Daft Punk—worked a very particular magic on the listener.
The hardcore four-on-the-floor beat of Chicago acid house was a shock to the system, the antithesis, in some ways, of the lush, expensive sounds of disco from which it derived. In Chicago at the time, you were as likely to hear gangbangers blasting acid house in their cars as you were to hear the stereotypical raver doing the same. It was hardcore music, much like hip-hop, and it was popular with diverse audiences throughout the city.
House was about abrasive, hammering repetition, designed to replicate physicality and sexuality. Some of these tracks were a radical break from the smoothly sensual, the spiritual, the soulful traditions of generations past.
Filter-house was a play on that split, because it built on the one thing acid house and disco had in common: the four-on-the-floor groove. Essentially, a house producer would take a known disco record and sample it. They would then distort the EQ settings, bringing down the treble, or the bass, toying with how you heard the record. It was a way to play with tensions, to tease. It was about build and release, but in a much more impactful way than could be accomplished with traditional songwriting. This was something DJs already did with disco records when spinning live; essentially, house producers adapted the DJ's tools to make records, and a new sound was born.
The trick is kind of like an approximation of sex, much in the way dancing can be. The producer might build tension by looping one part of a disco sample—say, Teddy Pendergrass’ “You Can’t Hide From Yourself.” He might kill the treble, so it suddenly sounds as if the listener (or dancer) has suddenly been submerged underwater. He might cut out the kick drum, so everyone is suddenly floating, untethered from the groove. And, just as pressure is building, he might bring everything up together at once, just as the sweetest part of the sample hits, for a full release of energy.
In fact, that’s just what DJ Sneak (again, see “Teachers”) did on “You Can’t Hide From Your Bud,” a Chicago house classic that filtered the old school and made it sound new.
Listen to Daft Punk's song "Musique." Now listen to Dan Hartman’s “Instant Replay.” You can easily hear them working along similar lines.