Rhythm & Views 

Hercules and Love Affair

There's no doubt that listeners are in for something special when the debut album by this New York City-based dance-music project--masterminded by DJ-cum-producer Andrew Butler--opens with the rich alto of singer Antony Hegarty, of Antony and the Johnsons fame.

On "Time Will," Antony's cabaret-meets-nightclubbing style sets an appropriate tone for the album, which adroitly straddles the line between disco and chamber pop. This recalls the daring dance music that came out of New York in the late 1970s, especially that of Chic, and in the early 1980s, most notably the early avant-disco recordings by Material.

Singer Nomi handles the lead vocals (with Antony on backup) on the intoxicating sex-as-music "You Belong," while Kim Ann Foxman steps up to sing the dark, lush "Athene," which does a nice job of splitting the difference between Soft Cell and Matthew Herbert. Elsewhere, "Hercules Theme" explodes as a full strings-and-horns dance-floor shaker, while the skittering, low-key "Easy" sounds like a choice Shriekback outtake.

The electro-house groove asserts itself fully with the single "Blind," which features Antony on vocals, along with hypnotic synth-pop blips, and wicked trumpet playing by Steve Bernstein.

Although Hercules and Love Affair--in the running for my album of the year--includes a number of references to Greek and Roman mythology, "Blind" doesn't immediately appear to be about Oedipus putting his eyes out. The lyrics hint that the song is more concerned with finding the truth inside when illusions abound outside. Nevertheless, it's the track that discerning music buffs will most often replay.

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