Hercules and Love Affair, ‘Hercules and Love Affair’ (Mute/DFA)
DJ/producer Andrew Butler mixes the poetic Apollonian aspects of queer culture with the Dionysian party represented by left-field disco and hypnotic early house, and crafts an unsettling masterpiece that yearns and churns and ultimately pulls the rug from under your dancing feet. With production help from DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy, Butler’s debut album journeys through club music’s bent past with both universal and timeless results that are as sensual and surreal as a Jean Cocteau film set to a GiorgioMoroder soundtrack.
The ghosts of Sylvester, Arthur Russell, Klaus Nomi, and countless other AIDS nightlife casualties act as guiding spirits through airy, elated early-morning grooves (the New Orleans gumbo of “Hercules Theme,” the Muppets-inspired “True False/ Fake Real”) that eventually shift into simmering, mid-tempo meditations. Drunken jazz horns and strutting bass lines heat up neon-cool electronics as Butler and other earthbound singers alternate with Antony Hegarty’s otherworldly croon to fill the night with tender outcast prayers.
Like the troubled heroes of so many Greek tragedies, Hegarty looks to the stars for guidance on the album’s quixotic peak, “Blind,” but the answer is down below in a steady bass drum that suggests he’s gotta keep moving, keep dancing. For we’re all stars, as the Sylvester song once explained, and we will only happen once.