Producers who mine the depths of underground dance music too often follow the letter, but not the spirit, of the genre. They might borrow the arrangements, EQ and editing styles that propelled dance floors at such legendary New York clubs as the Loft and Paradise Garage, or mimic the shimmer, clothes and hair of '80s disco and new wave, or sometimes just sample it all outright and call it their own. The results are nice enough—and draw much-deserved attention to dance music's post-disco, pre-house golden age—but they fail to evoke the emotions and atmosphere that kept a small but influential generation dancing long after mainstream America got over its Saturday-night fever.
Hercules and Love Affair, a product of New York DJ Andy Butler and friends, manage a genuine homage to this era without losing the alienated, melancholy feelings that made the music special. This is due in part to Butler's excellent taste in vocalists. Antony Hegarty, of Antony and the Johnsons, puts his pleading voice to good use on songs such as "Time Will" and the monster single "Blind," echoing the presence of Robert Owens and the fragility of Arthur Russell, while Kim Ann Foxman's metallic tones cast a shadow across the warmth of such cuts as "Athene" and "Iris."
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Everything on this widely acclaimed debut LP sounds at once familiar and entirely new. Although it's built with the vintage instruments and authentic production styles that will please the collectors and curators among us, Hercules and Love Affair shines with fresh, modern, well-crafted songs you don't have to be a historian to appreciate.