- Andy Butler's understanding of disco's heritage appears much deeper than most other revivalists. Songs like "Blind" and "Raise Me Up," from Hercules & Love Affair's 2008 debut album, showed Butler had grasped that disco was as much about struggle as emancipation, with politics of sexuality and identity played out across the dance floor. Hercules & Love Affair's fourth album, Omnion, is also touched by specific tragedies: the massacres at Orlando's Pulse nightclub and the Bataclan in Paris. Sharon Van Etten appears on the LP's title track following Butler's remix of "Not Myself," the song she wrote in response to Orlando. Lebanese singer Hamed Sinno's Arabic verses on "Are You Still Certain?" are based on conversations between himself and Butler after the attack in Paris, and a double suicide bombing in Beirut the day before.
These events seem to have inspired more engagement with the wider world here. Icelandic trio Sísý Ey sing "Running" from the perspective of a refugee. Gustaph excoriates fake news and media manipulation on "Lies." Lyrics like "I can't live in a world / that won't keep its shape," on "Through Your Atmosphere," sung by Faris Badwan of The Horrors, can be interpreted as a man taking a more clear-eyed view of everyday reality, rather than escaping into nightlife's transient peaks.
Butler can still deliver those peaks. Proof can be found in "Controller"s taut synth pop pulse, a beat as driving and defiant as anything on the LP. But on "My Curse And Cure," the more downbeat nature of the lyrics is reflected in more subdued rhythms and arrangements. Another reason for that might be Butler overcoming his own demons of addiction, something he unflinchingly details on "Fools Wear Crowns." Clubland's pumping rhythms might conceivably represent darker temptations as much as liberation for him now, but when he sings "allow me to raise my hand / and admit just what a fool I am," it strikes a redemptive and ultimately hopeful note.
The same could be said of the children's choir singing "we pray for tomorrow / we pray for today" on the closing "Epilogue." Compared to the brash and muscular disco we're used to from Butler, the soft strings and electronics he surrounds them with feel wavering and almost uncertain. But that's maybe not a weakness so much as an understandable reaction to the troubling state of the world Omnion seeks to address.
01. Omnion feat. Sharon Van Etten
02. Controller feat. Faris Badwan
03. Rejoice feat. Rouge Mary
04. Are You Still Certain? feat. Mashrou' Leila
05. Running feat. Sísý Ey
06. Fools Wear Crowns
07. Lies feat. Gustaph
08. Wild Child feat. Rouge Mary
09. My Curse And Cure feat. Gustaph
10. Through Your Atmosphere feat. Faris Badwan
11. Epilogue feat. Gustaph