Developing a DJ-oriented album that sounds heavily musical requires immense artistic talent. The contemporary DJ scene involves extensive mixing, mashing and melding, but infrequently produces a sound reminiscent of traditional funk and soul with a modern twist. That is until Brooklyn’s Hercules and Love Affair hit the scene with their self-titled album that defies all the pitfalls of trendy dance music and provides an excellent album that is an inventive adaptation of disco. The album was released by New York’s DFA Records, a label that boasts a roster of electronic favorites like LCD Soundsystem, the Rapture and Hot Chip.
Hercules was created by the genius of Denver-born DJ Andy Butler, who does vocals and keys in conjunction with Nomi Ruiz, Kim Ann Foxman and Antony Hegarty, of Antony and the Johnsons fame, on vocals. The album also features Kevin Barker on guitar, Tim Goldsworthy on drum programming, Andrew Raposo on bass, Nick Millhiser on drums, Carter Yasutaki on trumpet, Cory King on trombone, Maxim Moston on strings, Morgan Wiley on keys, Tyler Pope on bass, Ben Perowski on drums, Steve Bernstein on trumpet and Eric Broucek on rhythm guitar. The list of contributors may be a mouthful, but this collaboration is precisely what make this album special.
The album is full of traditional funk riffs, trumpet solos, jazz influence and disco beats. The collection of talented musicians and their ability to infuse contemporary music with retro sound allows the album to flourish. Vocal variety and layering of vocal parts over instrumental parts and laptop-based beats create an original and organic sounding piece of music. Equally staggering is the sheer talent of the singers. They take their cues from blues and soul soloists in their variation of modern day disco. The lyrics are relatively simple, but undeniably sophisticated with their references to Greeks such as Hercules and Athene—not to mention a vibrantly colored CD booklet covered in Greek art.
Obviously, in terms of musicality, the band knows what they’re doing, but that’s not what makes this album special. What sets this album apart is the fact that these songs make you actually want to get on your feet and not just dance, but boogie. It inspires images of bell-bottoms and Afros, but it doesn’t feel overly nostalgic or played out. Instead it sounds like an adaptation of the music of the 70s that can suit any hipster dance club. They released their newest single, “You Belong,” on July 7. Hercules and Love Affair are living proof that disco was never really dead.