Inspired by the draining final eight months of a crumbling relationship, Hercules & Love Affair’s third album, The Feast Of The Broken Heart, has been described by the ever-rotating collective’s leader Andy Butler as more “fiery, rough, tough and ragged” than their previous 21st Century takes on Chicago house.
Despite roping in industrial pioneer Mark Pistel (Michael Franti, Consolidated) as co-producer, the follow-up to 2011’s Blue Songs isn’t the huge departure the New York DJ hinted, with only the trippy techno of “Liberty” and the drum ‘n’ bass tinged closer “The Key” taking the whole crying-at-the-discotheque concept into more aggressive territory.
However, Hercules & Love Affair’s inspired choice of guest stars ensures that The Feast Of The Broken Heart still remains utterly intriguing throughout. Recapturing the heart-on-the-sleeve confessional vibe of last year’s stunning Pale Green Ghosts, Colorado troubadour John Grant recalls the moment he discovered he was HIV-positive against a backdrop of elegant lounge bar piano, hissing hi-hats and shimmering synths on the wondrous “I Try To Talk To You.”
Belgian unknown Gustaph makes the most of his first moment in the spotlight on “That’s Not Me,” a glorious mid-90s throwback which echoes the handbag house of Livin’ Joy. Likewise the equally androgynous Rouge Mary, who takes center stage on the disjointed funk of “Think.”
But it’s jazz-soul chanteuse Krystle Warren who steals the show, transforming herself into a fully-fledged vocal house diva on both “My Offence,” a provocative feminist anthem which is surely the first time noted academic Germaine Greer has been quoted on a dance record, and “The Light,” an equally curious blend of spooky slide guitars, answering machine bleeps and gospel melodies which echoes Moby at his Play-era peak.
The Feast Of The Broken Heart might not be the record Hercules & Love Affair promised. But it’s another triumphant love letter to classic house which perfectly extols the virtues of “dancing your troubles away.”