The man behind the curtain of Hercules & Love Affair, Andy Butler, issued a determined statement of intentions, concepts and ambitions at the helm of the campaign for his new LP, The Feast Of The Broken Heart: “I wanted nasty basslines, stormy, bleary-eyed sounds, fiery, rough, tough and ragged old school house productions that sounded almost techno. I didn’t want polite, I wanted aggressive.”
The Big Apple-based DJ and producer backed up that intent with the lead single for his third long-player and follow-up to 2011’s lauded Blue Songs. “Do You Feel the Same?”, featuring Belgian vocalist Gustaph, is the kind of gyrating, sparkle-laced house-pop born for both penthouse shindigs dappled in gold and Moët, and skeeve-riddled UV dens and underground raves. There’s a universality to it; it’s got the power to make anyone shake ‘it’, in the immortal words of André 3000, “like a Polaroid picture”.
On Blue Songs, he ventured into ‘80s pop labyrinths, late-night radio dance and chilled-out electro-scapes. It was still heady house, and still had a propensity to set the phasers to fun, but there was a sleeker, slicker, slitherier kind of lounge-based japery at the forefront. That remains within Feast most notably on “The Key”. It boasts a sensuality, an afterparty vibe perhaps, via jazzy keys and the odd burst of funeral brass, that the rest of the album pushes to the back-burner. It’s not gone entirely, and it’s red-blooded in places like any great dance album should be, but it takes a different role within Feast and lets sheer hedonism, excesses ‘n’ all, take centre stage. It’s a kinda ‘bros before hos’ approach, in that it would rather stay out all night partying than settle down for some rumpy-pumpy.
“Do You Feel The Same?” ingrains that fun-centric ethos into our minds, and Butler rabidly expands upon it with other tracks. “5:43 To Freedom”, is rammed with a funktronica bassline and thundering club hooks, “Liberty” features tropical beachfront rhythms and cool vocal breezes, “That’s Not Me” sets itself up to be a massive dancefloor hit… there’s a conscious thread throughout this record that makes you stand up and pay attention, and then, probably, dance the night away. The way that Butler dips into other genres, albeit briefly, or plays with tone and pace, gives the feeling of a DJ set or a mixtape in itself. It becomes a fully-formed night-out soundtrack, right through from getting suited and booted, to stumbling home at 3am with the remnants of a kebab round your chops.
Dance is a well-trodden genre in recent years; all permutations have been catered, from the gilded plastic of Avicii, to the sparse mystique of Jon Hopkins. Though Butler struggles to transform or reinvent his chosen genre – not that it appears he’s really trying to – he handles the conventions with style, and provides just enough tame experimentation to keep Feast wonderfully accessible to the Disclosure-ites, and not just mine a deep house vein with narrow niche appeal. Aided by the rest of Hercules & Love Affair and a cadre of vocal supremos, including Rouge Mary, the aforementioned Gustaph, Krystle Warren and the incomparable John Grant (who lends his tender pipes to “Liberty” and “I Try To Talk To You”), Butler has sculpted a complete, resolute collection of high-grade dance music.