Hercules and Love Affair
Few records this century have polarised opinion like Anthony and the Johnsons 2005 release I Am Blind; for some it was a triumph, surfing proudly on the friction created whenever avant garde rubs up against the supine mainstream, whilst for for others it was an unlistenable essay into a bottomless art-rock puddle.
Since it's unexpected Mercury award the titular Anthony Hegarty has been far from prolific, preferring to float around the edges of a music world desperate to annoint him into their circle - a coronation he seems to be flatly refusing. His contribution to Hercules and Love Affair's debut may initially seem slight - vocals on three tracks, some writing, a smattering of co-production - but it goes to the very heart of the elementary, bruised disco aesthetic which Hercules' chief architect Andrew Butler is trying to construct.
Based in New York and working for James "LCD Soundsytem" Murphy's label DFA, Butler along with co-producer Tim Goldsworthy is a true believer, a man who recognises that club music is at it's height of expression when shorn of personality, that it's body politic is defined by dancefloor togetherness and a retreat into personal anonymity. This dislocation is satisfied here by the shrewd recruitment of an ensemble cast of vocalists, with Hegarty plus newcomers Kim Anne Foxman and Nomi interchanging almost at will to provide a seamless backdrop.
Whilst a few might question the necessity of creating the sound of Studio 54 for the noughties, Butler answers his critics with a mix of understatement and decadence; Hegarty provides lithe diva-esque cameos on the syncopated opener Free Will and the classic street funk of single Blind, Foxman's vocal androgny on Athene echoes the frosty ambivalence of Grace Jones, whilst You Belong is a nostalgically stunning return to the era defining early techno of Inner City.
They say never go back - in this case, you'll be thankful Hercules and Love Affair have.