Hercules and Love Affair - Blue Songs (4 stars)

Hercules and Love Affair - Blue Songs

(Moshi Moshi/Cooperative)

Within the first few seconds of this sophomore album, Andy Butler’s New York-based disco-house collective have achieved Objective A: to lose the one-hit wonder tag after the deservedly monumental success of ‘Blind’ in 2008. The opening ‘Painted Eyes’ struts in on an irresistible disco bassline and a flute part reminiscent of a Gil Scott-Heron classic, building to a measured symphony of choral strings and ghostly, imploring falsetto vocals. This song will be remixed to bits and destroy dancefloors across the land.

Not all of the Patrick Pulsinger-produced record hits these heights, but there are plenty of well-worked experiments in style and genre to create a compelling listen over nearly an hour. The on-the-nose titling of ‘My House’, for example, mirrors a song which is heavy on austere, late-80s piano house in the style of Frankie Knuckles, which is shot through with reverb-heavy, chopped up lyrics, while ‘Answers Come in Dreams’ overlays squelching acid house keys over a soaring Grace Jones-style disco groove.

A slight mid-album lull is broken up by the electro-acoustic chill of ‘Boy Blue’ (a ringer for Everything But the Girl) and enlivened by the by-now familiar handclap disco of ‘Falling’, before a late and concerted rally. ‘I Can’t Wait’ and ‘Visitor’ offer harder, more jackin’ electro beats, while the synthetic soul of ‘Step Up’ continues guest vocalist Kele Okereke’s creditable reinvention as one of clubland’s most compelling chanteurs. The finale is the real killer, though, a haunting, minimal cover of The Pet Shop Boys’ ‘It’s Alright’ sung by regular Herc team-member Kim Ann Mossman, an anthem to define eras and surely this year’s ‘New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down’.

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