On the night of July 12, 1979, an event of sheer scorn took place against a genre of music that that the world likely hasn't witnessed since. At Chicago's Comiskey Park, a radio station promotion titled "Disco Demolition Night" completely got out-of-hand. Just after a box of collected records was blown up, thousands of people rushed out onto the field, vandalized the stadium, and eventually had to be driven away by riot police. Perhaps symbolically, disco peaked the following year and then set about into a rapid decline in popularity.
It's hard to believe that any style of music could draw quite as much ire these days, and as with most flavors that were once viewed as untouchable, disco has had quite a resurgence over the course of the past couple years. Artists like Glass Candy and The Chromatics have made it safe for hipsters to sway in their skinny jeans, while Scandinavia has cranked out beautiful disco-style stuff from Lindstrom and Sally Shapiro. Of course, a person could probably argue that the ones who really got the wheels rolling on the whole thing is the DFA label itself, which has been cultivating a roster of artists with a healthy love of the once-despised disco.
Hercules And Love Affair is one of the newest signees with the label (and have finally now had their album released in the United States via Mute), and they're perhaps one of the most blatant in their love of the four-on-the-floor and orchestral flairs. Although the live group has expanded to include a slew of people, the main songwriter for the group is Andrew Butler, and he's joined on the release by a handful of players, including Tim Goldsworthy on programming and perhaps more excitingly Antony Hegarty (of Antony And The Johnsons) on vocals. The result is a gem of an album that certainly has nods to the retro, but also pushes forwards nicely as well.
Album opener "Time Will" is the perfect kick-off as it slowly builds with soft synths and warm filtering as the dramatic vocals of Antony swirl and rise through the mix. A kick drum enters, but doesn't stay long as the song prefers to simply go higher and higher on sheer atmosphere. "Hercules Theme" is straight-up 70s sound with multi-part vocals that are cooing and chanting while both string and horn stabs pump through the syncopated rhythm section.
"Blind" is the first single from the album and easily one of the most glistening pop songs on the entire release as propulsive beats are again married with the vocals of Antony, whose soulful crooning sounds perfectly at home on the super-funky track. Although the album isn't quite as strong as it swerves towards a conclusion (and the bonus songs on the domestic version don't add a great deal to the release), it's hard to argue with tracks like the stunning downtempo number of "Iris," which finds male/female vocals from Butler and Kim Ann Foxman blending together for a surprisingly touching song. Not only a one of the debuts of the year, but also one of the better releases in general, this self-titled debut from Hercules And Love Affair is worth picking up.