What happened to Andy Butler? Obviously nothing in the physical sense because the man at the helm of Hercules & Love Affair has very much ascended to daddy status in recent years. But his musical outfit hasn’t, with any early success seeming very much like, well, Blind luck.
On Omnion (try saying that over and over), there’s something of an epiphany for Hercules & Love Affair. The disco-chintz of early years is now balanced with a series of more thoughtful jams that stray between hypnotic electronica and more ambient sounds. It starts with Sharon Van Etten‘s dreamlike presence on the title track, the sort of happy march that perhaps reflects Butler’s own personal state.
Of course, the old beats are still there if slightly more measured. Controller comes tempered by Faris Badwan in the echoes of a forgotten 3am dancefloor, the heady moment where consciousness itself feels under the control of other forces. And Butler arguably has his first proper floor-filler in ages thanks to Rejoice, with Rouge Mary‘s charisma almost tangibly emerging from the speakers.
It’s no surprise that Butler is still painting a portrait of a hedonistic world, but this time that includes some welcome detours. Mashrou’ Leila are an incredible addition on Are You Still Certain?, a blend of their Lebanese indie with Western house that’s nothing but breathtaking and probably Butler’s most masterful stroke (oo er, etc) to date. It heralds a mini-upswing in the record, and even as Running is certainly more tempered than its predecessors it doesn’t seem like it’s filled with any less passion.
But like any great night out, the good comes with the bad – even Butler’s own addict confessional Fools Wear Crowns can’t quite measure up to its neighbours or the admirable subject matter. And while Hercules & Love Affair don’t quite deliver on the exceptional promise of Omnion’s first half, there’s more than enough thoughtful shuffling here for this to be one of Andy Butler’s best offerings yet.