Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hercules and Love Affair

Written by Tío Esqueleto

Disco is not dead. Just because a bunch of stoner (yet somehow aggressive) rockers from Chicago blew up a pile of Bee-Gees/K.C. and The Sunshine Band/Gloria Gaynor records in 1979, doesn’t necessarily make it so. Disco simply went into hiding after that. It went on vacation to Europe, spent some time hiding out in the warehouses and lofts of NYC, and in the bedrooms, house parties, and high schools of Detroit, until it eventually emerged stronger than ever, ironically and all too fittingly, right back in Chicago, a place it has called home (“House”) ever since.

Jump to 2008, Hercules And Love Affair is a collaborative effort headed by New York DJ/producer Andrew Butler, with Antony (of Antony and The Johnsons), Kim Ann Foxman, and Nomi, lending vocals and guidance along the way. This self-titled first album celebrates all things dance music, and is a travelogue through disco’s rarely chronicled, underground sabbatical.

A few tracks worth mentioning are, first off and rather appropriately, “Hercules Theme,” a sexy Donna Summer-inspired ditty, doused with sweat, laden with frantic, funky brass and dripping with intensity. The music evokes images of the sexy dancing poppies from The Wiz (you have your imagination and I have mine!), while the lyrics are a simple, repeated chant detailing the recent accolades of the would-be demi-god it was penned for.

Next, Nomi shines on “You Belong,” a love letter of sorts to Detroit’s Inner City, an outfit founded by Detroit techno pioneer Kevin Saunderson in the mid ‘80s. Insert this track anywhere in their seminal 1989 album, Paradise, and one would be hard pressed to pick out the imposter.

Songs like “Blind,” the album’s first single, and “Raise Me Up” are post cards from disco’s European vacation, in particular its prolonged stops in Italy and Germany throughout the early to mid 1980s where the music relied a bit less on the organic, and a bit more on the electronic with sequencers taking center stage, setting it apart from its American counterparts at the time. Classics such as “Magnifique” and the Italo classic, “Come On Closer” by Pineapples instantly come to mind. Throw in Antony’s vocals, which here are less his usual contempoarary Boy George croon and more like accompaniment to classic Giorgio Moroder, and the picture is complete. Had I not heard of Antony and The Johnsons first, I would have assumed this Antony was an underground God, graciously lending his voice, getting one more go-around at a hit 12”. Honestly, and I’ll say it again, all I could think was Pineapples’ “Come on Closer.”

Now would be a good time to say that while I may rely heavily on comparison and “sounds like,” by no means is it all throw back and regurgitation. It is more respect and homage then it is anything else, and, still, there is plenty of youth and originality offered here, as well. Tracks like “Iris” with vocals provided by Kim Ann Foxman and “Easy” are a nice reminder of the ‘new’ on display here, as well as the aforementioned influence and ode. The domestic CD release includes two additional tracks from 2007’s stand-alone 12”, “Classic” b/w “Roar.” Here are the two reasons why so many of us have been waiting patiently for this full-length album to finally arrive.

Hercules And Love Affair is masterfully produced by Butler and Tim Goldsworthy, cofounder (along with James Murphy) of DFA Records, making them yet another platinum addition to the DFA family. A perfect fit.

This album triumphs as a travelogue from disco’s lesser-known past, filling you in on what you missed. If you are one of the many people who naively assumed that disco died with all those smoldering “Disco Duck” records on the south side of Chicago back in 1979, you were wrong.

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