Music Reviews
Hercules and Love Affair

Hercules and Love Affair Hercules and Love Affair

(Mute) Rating - 8/10

Tying dance music back to its disco roots is an odd endeavor for somebody my age, who came into his sparse knowledge of electronic music primarily in this decade.  Coming into a sense of the dimensions and possibilities of electronic music was kind of a revelation.  Childhood impressions were tied to laugable Disco Fever infomercials which emphasized the novelty commercial end, where KC and the Village People would appear to be the towering artists of the genre.  The racist, homophobic "disco sucks" backlash still held sway, and "classic rock" radio seemed to be the standard of what "real music" was supposed to be.

Its even more confusing never having had an active club life.  The music exists between headphones primarily for me, considerations of potency "on the floor" mostly speculative.  Just as forays into classic funk bring to mind block parties never experienced, study into classic dance music bring to mind a cultural revolution in the discos of New York that is purely imagined.

Much like Neon Neon this year crafted a sound perfectly suited to a fictitious impression of the materialistic 80s, Hercules and Love Affair have perfected the ideal sound of an imagined era in dance.  Bearing the DFA stamp (and drum programming by Tim Goldsworthy) through a release on Mute, the collective presents a racially diverse polysexual vision of how one might like to think it was.  Feel free to ignore the elitism and vacuous hedonism that inspired those caustically sarcastic Chic anthems, Hercules and Love Affair give us a bracing collection of talented modern outcasts to imagine dancing with 30 years ago.

Not that such a fantasy premise is neccesary to enjoy the music.  The album provides a remarkably consistent mid-tempo boogie grounded with beats that recall the sturdiest post-punk dance genres.  Though tracks vary from spartan arrangements of keys, guitar, and/or bass to tracks fully fleshed out to mini-orchestra with live percussion, horns, and strings, nothing sounds overblown or self-consciously sparse.  Vocals alternate disaffected divas Nomi and Kim Ann Foxman as well as richly androgynous tones from Andrew Butler and Antony (yes, that one).

The emotional tone, actually, is closer than anything else to the dancier end of the New Romantic groups that owned England for a few years in the early 80s.  Musical cues might include the last Rapture album, with its exhuberant multi-instrumental disco moments.  The difference is that this is at a steady mid-tempo that defines its sad, romantic tone, and is shorn of anything explicitly "rock" (not that they are above having a few great snaky basslines by Andrew Raposo).  The finest moment is probably one of its most melancholy, the resigned "Iris", where a simple, marimba assisted lockstep is subtly accentuated by Foxman's sad verses and judicious strokes of trumpet and trombone.  Though the overall impression is decidedly retro, it is moments like these that make this self-titled debut simultaneously modern and timeless.