Music

Hercules and Love Affair: Blue Songs

Blue Songs finds Adam Butler and his crew of collaborators laying back -- turning the dance floor into an ethereal contemplation, unrepentant debauchery, retro revivalism, and slow-burning House.


Hercules and Love Affair

Blue Songs

Label: Moshi Moshi
US Release Date: 2011-02-22
UK Release Date: 2011-01-31
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

The irresistible disco baseline from the opening number on Hercules and Love Affair’s (H&LA) sophomore effort is the first act of deception from New York DJ, Adam Butler. Unlike their eponymous debut, Butler’s producer-led collective’s second effort is an infinitely more mellow collection than its predecessor. While the 2008 debut resulted in disco banger after disco banger, Blue Songs, as the title suggests, is far more sedated -- taking a nod from Acid House. This squelching combination draws obvious inspiration from the likes of Gil Scott Heron, Marshall Jefferson, and Frankie Knuckles. Sounding like something from 1989, when Chicago House was at its peak, Blue Songs is as much a pastiche as it is a retrospective commentary from a group of talented record producers.

The most captivating cut on the record is undoubtedly the lead single, “My House” as it boasts 1980s House piano, as their new guest vocalist, Shaun Wright, chants, "But my house is in order/My home". This lovingly crafted piece of updated revivalism will please self-dubbed "art fags" and hardcore fans of Butler’s Mr. INTL label, which specializes in music from between 1985 and 1994. Also worth a mention is the Grace Jones-style impression in “Answers Coming Down”, and the wraith-like falsetto of the opening number, “Painted Eyes”.

The evident modification in Butler’s cast and scenery however has shifted the H&LA’s parameters quite significantly. Moving from New York to Denver and Vienna, where he collaborated with techno legend Patrick Pulsinger, H&LA’s second effort dips to an unexpected lull in its middle section. “Boy Blue” is a quiet and repetitive number with an unexpected acoustic guitar that paves the way for “Blue Song”, an oddly placed track that sounds like something the Beach Boys might have produced had they been forced into a stint in the jungle.

This dip is remedied by the pulsing “Falling” and “I Can’t Wait” -- a singular track driven by a spellbinding vocal reverb. The latter is a born dance floor staple. Yet, as we meander to the finish line from clubland chaos to the relentless hangover that is the album’s finale, we find the path all the more muddied. Here, the 1987 Sterling Void cover “It’s Alright” is performed by H&LA regular, Kim Ann Foxman, who whooshes past the listener, as her voice remains in the lower reaches of spoken-word presentation. Unfortunately, this cover feels anachronistically placed within the collection. Neither passionate nor dreamlike, it is the album’s most hollow moment.

It may seem like a populist desire to hunger for the theatricality of H&LA’s previous guest vocalist Antony Hegarty, but it is something I imagine many H&LA fans will be waiting for. Hercules and Love Affair’s breakout debut was immeasurably wonderful because it was unabashedly camp and OTT, forcing all of its listeners into disco-induced comas. Blue Songs finds Butler and his crew of collaborators laying back to a place where the dance floor can be as much a place for ethereal contemplation as it is for unrepentant debauchery.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image