Hercules & Love Affair

The Feast of the Broken Heart

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The Feast of the Broken Heart and 2011's Blue Songs are more dissimilar than their titles indicate. Andy Butler retains writing and production partner Mark Pistel but otherwise refreshes his house syndicate with new collaborators and voices. Viennese production duo Haze Factory, who previously remixed Butler and Shaun J. Wright's "Forever More" and were a highlight of Butler's 2012 DJ-Kicks set, are added to the mix. The lead vocalists -- a couple of whom crossed paths with Butler at Hercules & Love Affair shows -- are all new. Butler and his co-producers concoct a similarly lean album that could fit on one side of a 90-minute cassette, but the edges and moods are much sharper than those of Blue Songs. There are fewer subtleties. The tough and mechanical "My Offence," the first proper song, begins with Krystle Warren pointedly asking, with elegant muscularity, "Are you talking to me? My name isn't 'girl'." Like the majority of what follows, it's an aggressive track that recalls early house music, as well as a fully developed song. Other cuts temper the smacking drums with finer details -- piano trills, string sweetening, and basslines that burble into play and then vanish. Two such songs are greatly enhanced with lead vocals from John Grant, whose presence might come as a shock for those who haven't heard the first couple tracks off his Pale Green Ghosts; the choice to involve him was as smart as seeking Antony Hegarty, another dance music outsider, for "Blind." On the trucking "I Try to Talk to You," Grant is just above a purr, coolly offering "I could've taught you how to love yourself," while the slightly acidic "Liberty" reaches a peak when he belts "You can be free" out of pained resignation rather than encouragement. Gustaph and Rouge Mary also prove to be ideal foils for Butler, who still makes his songs tight, powerful, and optimally shaped.

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