The disco and funk sounds that were central to the self-titled 2008 debut from Hercules & Love Affair have all but disappeared from DJ Andrew Butler’s project. Over a handful of mixes and 2011’s sophomore effort Blue Songs, Butler has delved deeper into the sounds of early Chicago house and hard techno, a harsher but equally danceable sonic palette. Such changes continue on his latest LP, The Feast Of The Broken Heart, which is rougher and more determined than anything else he’s released under the Hercules & Love Affair moniker.
The album springs to life with opening track “Hercules Theme 2014,” as snares snap over top of a grimy bass line while diva house vocals ecstatically shout “Hercules!” It’s a perfect table-setter, a boisterous, seductive introduction that touches on the mix of harsh tones and sultry melodies that run throughout the album. While Blue Songs still held on to some of the lively funk influences that Butler traded in on his earliest recordings, The Feast Of The Broken Heart is decidedly more edgy in terms of production, and it’s a feel that suits Butler and his cast of vocalists. “My Offence” boasts distorted synth and bass lines, a rougher counterpart to the track’s cleaner elements, namely the crisp snares and jazz-tinged vocals of Krystle Warren. Elsewhere, “Do You Feel The Same?” features a remarkable vocal turn from Belgian singer Gustaph and comes decorated with an electric keyboard melody that contrasts against the dark bass underbelly of the arrangement, creating tension while highlighting the track’s lighter synth touches.
The Feast Of The Broken Heart, a standout record in Hercules & Love Affair’s young discography, boasts Butler’s strongest cast of vocal collaborators yet. Warren, Gustaph, John Grant, and Paris-based singer Rouge Mary are central to each song, their commanding voices nimbly navigating the intricate house arrangements and finding the sweet melodies hidden underneath the more severe arrangements. Grant adds a smoky, reserved delivery to the more overt and frantic sonic touches of “I Try To Talk To You” while “I Think” may be the album’s finest cut, a four-on-the-floor banger that hinges on Mary’s raspy and seductive vocal presence. Ultimately, it’s the most adventurous record yet from Hercules & Love Affair. The house and techno elements are immediate and occasionally aggressive, but there’s great warmth and intimacy here as well.