Like James Murphy, whose DFA label released the first Hercules and Love Affair album in 2008, Andy Butler writes love letters to the records that changed his life. Unlike Murphy, his own signature isn't always as distinct as it might be, but there's no doubting the quality of his penmanship. With its choppy strings and rubber-ball bassline, "Painted Eyes" is a seductive homage to the most giddily luxuriant of '70s disco productions, just as "My House" nails the late-night warehouse ambience of early Chicago house mavens such as Frankie Knuckles. If you know the references, it produces a tingle of nostalgia; even if you don't, the lushness and precision of Butler's production promises high-end dancefloor escapism.
It's all skillful, but rarely surprising. The combination of classic house piano and the breathy English accent of Bloc Party's Kele Okereke comes closest to recreating the counterintuitive frisson of "Blind", Hercules's breakthrough collaboration with Antony Hegarty, while the juicy, glitchy "I Can't Wait" brings much-needed intensity (you can sense the hand of Viennese co-producer Patrick Pulsinger). When Butler sidelines the kickdrum for the airy art-pop of "Boy Blue" and "Blue Song," his love of Arthur Russell and Brian Eno shines through, but the closing cover of Sterling Void's 1987 house anthem "It's All Right,"slowed to a crawl and rearranged for just voice and piano, is a washout. Sometimes the records you love are best left alone.