thu 08/12/2022

Album: Hercules & Love Affair - In Amber | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Hercules & Love Affair - In Amber

Album: Hercules & Love Affair - In Amber

NYC dance maven goes fully goth with stunning results

'A masterpiece of dark music for dark times'

A gothic aesthetic is very common in the left field of electronic/club music these days – but it tends to go with fairly extreme sounds: either industrial pummelling, or glitched-out “deconstructed club” as in artists like Ziúr.

But Andy Butler and his Hercules & Love Affair project have gone for something altogether different on the fifth H&LA album. Just as, in his early records, Butler went back to the source building blocks of house and disco music, here he's gone right to the roots of goth. 

So this album is rife with influences. Woven throughout, you can clearly hear Killing Joke, Dead Can Dance, Siouxie & The Banshees, Diamanda Galas, Joy Division, some sinister old pagan folk-rock, wafts of Bowie at his doomiest… As if to seal the deal Budgie, drummer with the Banshees and half of The Creatures with Siouxie, plays drums and percussion, his rolling toms sounding like harbingers of terrible things. 

And it is dark as hell. With vocals by Butler in stentorian mode, counterpointed by Icelandic singer Elin Ey and a majesterial ANHONI (reunited with H&LA over a decade after she first sung on their breakthrough track “Blind”), songs touch on alienation, dislocation, mistrust, violent homophobia, abuse, religious terror, war, genocide – it is really not a nice record. Yet there is redemption, strength and love here, too: not as an easy, comforting pay-off, but as consistent flavours within the heady brew. The doomed and the hopeful are inseparable, and the tang of each is emphasised by the other. 

And musically, the mood is just as finely balanced. For all the references to the past, this is not a retro record. The motifs and moods of bands past don’t dominate but are used as tools in service of incredibly original and potent songwriting and narrative crafting, both within individual songs and across the piece as a whole. There are still electronic and even dance elements blended in too, and one can imagine there will be heart-stoppingly epic remixes of some of these tracks – but this is a total, crafted album of songs above all else. And though it’s emotionally hard going, as a listening experience it is anything but – it’s a truly beautiful piece of work. A masterpiece of dark music for dark times.

@joemuggs

Listen to "Grace" from In Amber:

There is redemption, strength and love here too: not as an easy, comforting pay-off, but as consistent flavours within the heady brew

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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