Artist: Hercules and Love Affair
Track: Hercules and Love Affair
Rating: * * * *
The first word that will come to mind when most people hear DJ Andy Butler’s project ‘Hercules and Love Affair’ is disco. There’s been no shortage of artists in the last few years who have tried to pay homage to the genre but few have done it as effectively as Butler does on this record. ‘Hercules and Love Affair’ doesn’t ever approach cheese or cringing nostalgia, and remains brilliantly stylish throughout. When listening to the album’s best track, Athene, it almost feels like it’s 1977 and you’re being turned away from Studio 54.
However, disco isn’t their only trick. ‘You Belong’ stands out as a more contemporary sounding House track; steady opener ‘Time Will’ shows the brilliant production of Butler and Tim Goldsworthy of the DFA while never turning into straight dance; and the dark techno of ‘Easy’ brings to mind Swedish duo ‘The Knife.’ That said it’s when Butler does disco that he does best, on tracks such as the aforementioned ‘Athene’ and other stand-out, ‘Hercules Theme’.
Butler is the creative force, but it’s the people he works with that make the album. The production is at times stunning, while there are brilliant vocal performances from transsexual singer Nomi and Kim Ann Foxman. The real revelation the album brings however is of the versatility of Anthony Hegarty, from Mercury Prize winners Anthony and the Johnsons. Formerly a melancholic and dark singer he commands this album making some songs, such as single ‘Blind’, all about him. His soulful vocals work well on dance tracks yet retain their sadness, therefore adding depth to the songs he features on. Butler himself sings on ‘This is My Love’, the most personal song on the album, with its sentimental lyrics such as “I met the smiling face of love/ She’s in my mind always/ Through the hero she put into my life/ She kisses all my days.” His soft and almost monotonous voice is by no means terrible but feels out of depth in the company it keeps on this record.
There are other moments of inconsistency. The previously mentioned ‘Easy’ doesn’t seem to achieve quite what it sets out to and ‘Iris’ feels bland after the excellent tracks that precede it. As a result the middle section of the album loses a bit of energy and will have many skipping tracks. Though the album isn’t able to played from start to finish it doesn’t really matter; this is an album of stunning moments rather than solid consistency. The simple fact is that ‘Hercules and Love Affair’ contains some of the most original and enjoyable dance tracks that have been released in the last few years.