Fixating on...Hercules and Love Affair

Fixating on...Hercules and Love Affair

18-05-2014 | 09.57

Back in 2008 a music video appeared on MTV that was hard to ignore. Yes, MTV was still a thing then and, yes they still played music videos! The video featured a woman in a dream-like state walking through a ritualistic Greek orgy, but the visual aspects proved to be a mere distraction from the impressive music that accompanied the video.

The name of the track was Blind and it was my first encounter with Hercules and Love Affair. It featured Anthony Hegarty’s stunning vocals alongside a well-executed Disco arrangement. If you were to have told me earlier that the lead singer of Anthony and the Johnsons was to front a Disco track, I would have thought you might have been trying to pull one over on me, had I not heard it for myself. It worked magnificently, and considering this was a debut, it was even more impressive. A self-titled album on tastemaker James Murphy’s DFA label soon followed and I was hooked. I was inaugurated as a fan and my fixation with Hercules and Love Affair lasts onto this day, the eve of their third full-length release, The Feast of the Broken Heart. This new album continues Hercules and Love Affair’s unique sound as sculpted by Andy Butler and the various contributors that make up the ever-evolving line-up. It is a sound that has naturally developed alongside the band, since their first album.
Their follow-up took three years to release, but was well worth the wait. Blue Songs, which appeared on the Moshi Moshi label, saw them moving into elements of Electro and House as the natural conclusion from their debut, and as ever, Mr. Butler picked some of the most interesting and exciting vocalists to front this project, with the likes of Aérea Negrot and Shaun J Wright making regular appearances on the album and the live tour that followed.
As if working on a strict schedule, this next instalment marks another three years since Hercules and Love Affair’s last release. Like Blue Songs, The Feast of the Broken Heart is yet another rung on their ladder, as they move deeper into a predominantly House palette. “I wanted nasty bass lines, stormy, bleary-eyed sounds, fiery, rough, tough and ragged old school house productions that sounded almost techno. I didn’t want polite, I wanted aggressive”, says Butler of this new album. The second single, I Try to Talk to You, sees John Grant fronting the vocals on this occasion with subtle hints of intelligent melodies and harmonies working alongside a sturdy house arrangement. All of these elements stand testament, once again to Hercules and Love Affair’s crossover versatility, which has been the Tour De Force of the band ever since Butler established the project.

A distinct New York resonance has always been at the heart of the band’s music, hinting towards Butler’s association with the city perhaps, while a pop sensibility is clearly noticeable. It’s a formula that has been closely emulated by the likes of Azari & III and Disclosure, with a little extra disco energy thrown in for good measure. It’s impossible not to stomp your feet and bob your head to a Hercules and Love Affair track, whether coming through your headphones or an impressive club system and it transposes well into a live situation, as I found out in the summer of 2010 when Butler and his crew performed in Victoria Park, London. Their show formed the perfect accompaniment for a remarkably unique summer’s day, the likes of which the UK town doesn’t see that often. Dressed in bright colours and sporting a high-energy attitude, their stage-presence was electric as cuts from their first and second album sliced through the city’s skyline. Hearing Aérea Negrot perform the vocals on Blind was an experience I am unlikely to forget. 
Some of these old favourites are bound to find their way into their set-list for Trouw on the 21st of May, while I’m certain that the bulk of the tracks will be picked from the latest album. The group seem to be on top form at the moment as the slick production and memorable tracks on Feast for the Broken Heart attests. They’ve found a good sonic aesthetic on this album, which takes them yet again into another direction from 2011’s Blue Songs and, like that album, it re-affirms my appreciation for Hercules and Love Affair once again.

Text: Mischa Mathys