Hercules & Love Affair Hercules & Love Affair Review

Released 2008.  

BBC Review

A short, sharp album of memorable tunes.

Lou Thomas 2008

Three decades after the height of disco's commercial success and New York is yet again at the centre of things, with Andrew Butler's production project, Hercules And Love Affair, bringing a distinctly retro flavour to the Big Apple's musical core.

Pleasingly, the disco here is the genuine article despite the years since the glamorous, but inevitably melancholy sound was brand new. It's certainly a relief that Butler and his three singing accomplices, Antony Hegarty of Antony And The Johnsons, Kim Ann Foxman and Nomi have evidently listened intently to First Choice and Loletta Holloway rather than the Bee Gees.

Diligence has been paid to keeping proceedings tightly-framed around the classic glitterball sound. It's true there are occasional modern production flourishes (such as the electronic feedback noise and gym-court trainer squeaks of Easy) which should be expected on an album co-produced by DFA man Tim Goldsworthy, partner of NYC uber-producer James Murphy.

But mostly HALA is a work of resolute honesty that is, at times, perhaps too good. Was it intentional that this attempt to make a classic disco record, where the speed of each track is slow by today's standards, is actually the perfect soundtrack to preparing to go out and the pre-club bar, rather than straight-up dancefloor fodder?

Intentions or otherwise, there's loads to admire here, from Antony's deep, soulful croon on Time Will to the slinky strings and fruity brass of Hercules Theme. In those two tunes alone, careful listeners will detect the influence of early Chicago house pioneer, Mr Fingers, and funk icon, Patrice Rushen.

So intoxicating is the languid soul sloshing out of the speakers that halfway through Athene - when yet an ascending bassline, Grace Jones boink and Giorgio Moroder riff snaps another synapse - stunned listeners will swear Andy Warhol just pushed past them in the Studio 54 queue.

It's quaint compared to Squarepusher, drum 'n' bass, the soiled funk-punk usually churned out by the likes of Goldsworthy or even the laughable Klaxons. Yet Butler and his pals have made a short, sharp album of memorable tunes that, because of its classic sound, will take far longer to date than most other dance albums released this year. Smart work all round.

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