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Album review: Hercules and Love Affair

Hercules and Love Affair

Mute

Disco will never die — it just keeps reinventing itself.

Its latest incarnation comes from the oddly named Hercules and Love Affair, which consists of DJ Andrew Butler getting by with a little help from his friends' vocal cords. Butler's winning mix of driving beats, trashy glamour and melancholy melodies recalls the burgeoning, underground days of house music in Chicago and New York. Like a vintage sonic collage, the album is spilling over with old-school influences, each more pleasing than the last. But its strong songwriting lends coherence, making each nod to the past essential to the whole.

The sparse synth pulses and dramatic, drag-queen vocals of the opening track, Time Will, recall Bronski Beat, while the string-soaked Hercules Theme is a cross between Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra and Walter Murphy's underrated A Fifth of Beethoven.

The grinding, dirty bass line, shrouded female vocals and needle pops of Athene will make you think you've dusted off a '70s 12-inch single. Raise Me Up is buoyed by a playful, bouncy beat, then descends into a joyous vocal cacophony.

Blind, with a tribal beat that recalls Blondie's Heart of Glass, a crisp horn section and shimmering vocals by Antony (of Mercury Prize-winning group Antony and The Johnsons), is the album's high point. When he croons mournfully, ”When I find myself alone, I feel like I am blind,“ you might not be sure exactly what he means, but you feel his longing in your soul.

So many disco-revivalist acts never aspire past campy fun, but Hercules and Love Affair comes off as utterly sincere — and as majestic as its name suggests.

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