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Thursday, July 10, 2008


At its core, the debut effort from Hercules and Love Affair, the brainchild of NYC-based DJ Andy Butler, is a great dance album. But there are a number of elements at work here that elevate the record from “just great” to “awe-inspiring”. Co-produced by this decade’s go-to electronic guru Tim Goldsworthy (Cut Copy, The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem), the album is as much a sincerely personal piece of detailed work as it is a solid collaborative effort.

With its feet firmly cemented to the ground, Hercules and Love Affair references the many eras of dance music-disco, Chicago House, and synth-pop to name a few. But Butler’s love of these sounds doesn’t just skim the surface. This is a man with a vast knowledge of those 12-inch crates of yesterday. The sounds produced here recall the hyper art disco of influential artists ranging from Arthur Russell, Frankie Knuckles, and the Paradise Garage days of Larry Levan.

The top of the album gets started with “Time Will”, as Antony Hegarty (of Antony & the Johnsons) in his most sultry, Alison Moyet-esque breathiness, commands:“Don’t lie to me, Don’t give it up”. Antony’s voice is instantly captivating. It almost seems like it was birthed to produce emotive disco tracks (his appearance on My Robot Friend’s “One More Try” a few years back was a good hint at this). Slowly, Goldsworthy’s production trickles in, lifting the track into an oddly gorgeous gay-torch-synth-ballad.

With “Hercules Theme” the fun really gets started. The track introduces one of the most impressive elements at work here-the fantastic use of live trumpets and trombones. The horns swirl into a state of frenzy around lush strings and the eloquent vocals of transsexual diva Nomi, who carries over into another standout track “You Belong”. With its soulful vocals and its genre defining high-hats and syncopated beats, you are instantly transported into a Chicago House club circa 1981.

But without a doubt, the highlight of the album is the breakout hit “Blind”. Decorated with lively horns and sweeping strings, everything comes together here in a stunning way, largely propelled by the phenomenal arrangement and, most importantly, the chilling vocals of Antony. Not only is it an essential dance track, it will absolutely be remembered as one of the best overall tracks of the year.

Perhaps what should be highlighted most about Hercules and Love Affair would be the knowledge and passion behind the work, something that justifies the so-called dance renaissance of now. Dance music has always been at its best when done with a curious intelligence and an outsider’s passion. The minds and souls at work here are very much worth paying attention to.

Originally published at

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