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Published on June 26th, 2014 | by Martin Aston

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Hercules And Love Affair – “Hercules And Love Affair”

In 2008, I reviewed Hercules HALA review webAnd Love Affair’s self-titled debut album for Attitude magazine.

What’s in a name? Plenty if someone combines the words Hercules and Love Affair for a fancy nom de plume (well, do you know the Greek for ‘pseudonym’?). Reading that earth’s strongest man in classical times was (in part anyway) queer, who blubbed for his lost (presumed dead) boy lover, clearly made an indelible impression on a boy growing up in Denver, Colorado. Likewise, discovering Yazoo’s disco-oid classic Situation coursing through his tinny radio was equally life-altering, adding Alf Moyet and Vince Clarke to Butler’s pantheon of champs. And you just know by Hercules’ Theme that the zippy strings of Odyssey’s ‘70s vintage floor-twirler Native New Yorker that Butler would have cast his eyes on NYC and envisaged a whole new future so bright he’d have to wear shades to live it? Doesn’t the name Hercules & Love Affair sound like a 70s disco troupe anyway?

This spirit of tough, vulnerable cry-babies and strident women, of dancing around the bedroom and Danceteria, of hard-edged rhythm with sweetness at the core, shapes this album debut, a gloriously burnished fusion of three decades of classic dance music, from disco to house, acid to synth-pop, Derrick May to Giorgio Moroder. The grooves are impeccable – Butler’s been planning and polishing for years, so we’re talking is state-of-the-art beauty rather than any lo-fi trashy tribute act. To make his point, the record’s first sound – after just one solitary second of synthesised bass – is one Antony Hegarty, like Butler an unNative New Yorker drawn like a moth to a pansexual mirrorball flame. It’s easy to imagine Antony as Alf to Butler’s Vince, though that curtain-raiser Time Will’s haughty magic is much more David Sylvian and Japan – even more so Easy, down to the clinking percussion and Sylvianesque murmured croon. No, the album’s purest ‘Yazoo’ moment is the brilliant Blind, where Antony, freed up from the quivery ballads of his own work, rides a carpet of sequencers laced with blasts of brass, guitar stabs, a thin veil of strings and a lyric that doubles as love song and a metaphor for escape: “As I a child, I knew, that the stars could only get brighter / that we would get closer, leaving this darkness behind.”

Antony’s soul-deep diva hauteur equally lights up You Raise Me Up, a smoother take on Blind. But he’s not Butler’s only maverick pal to step up to the mike. Cocorosie/Debbie Harry collaborator and solo artiste Nomi (sadly no relation of Klaus) peps up that disco-frisky Hercules’ Theme and You Belong, a class House act, while jewellery designer/DJ Kim Ann Foxman fronts Athena (in a word – gliding), Iris (slinky) and True False / Fake Real (sassy). Butler himself, while not trying to convince anyone that he was put on this planet to sing, takes centrestage for This Is My Love while assisting Kim Ann on True False. This community spirit is Hercules/Butler’s only weakness; on one level, Nomi’s husky soul delivery compliments Antony’s but when the latter isn’t around, you’re willing everyone else to match his gravitas. Still, you might be dancing too hard to notice. Anyone convinced that LCD Soundsystem’s Sound Of Silver made off with 2007’s best dance record should be prepared for LCD maestro James Murphy’s DFA collective to do the same this year.

* * * * 1/2

 

 




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