Writing about “this hypothetical disco renaissance happening in the abstract downtown of New York, New York” for thefanzine.com recently, Nick Sylvester traced “a very natural progression, beginning with an interest in postpunk, then into the danceable hybrid strains of no-wave, aka death disco, then into electro-rock and disco-punk, then into straight-up disco.” The DFA Records catalog is something like this progression’s vaportrail: a half-decade after Tim Goldsworthy and James Murphy produced The Rapture’s abrasive hip-shaker Echoes and met everyone halfway, we’ve finally come to this, DJ Andy Butler’s Herc (co-produced by Goldsworthy), all jello grooves, stabs of canned horns and, thanks in large part to guest vocalist Antony Hegarty, androgyny.
This is “straight-up disco,” but now so critically correct that Mark Richardson, reviewing Bee Gees Greatest on Pitchfork, can say: “To a lot of people at the time, the Bee Gees were disco… This may come as news to younger music obsessives… In this century, disco has undergone an interesting critical rehabilitation, with early figures… being celebrated for their contributions to underground dance music while the pop stuff has… been pushed aside.” I’m not sure we’ve come so full circle that the Bee Gees do come as news — I thought “disco” still meant spangled yard-sale kitsch, not racially mixed and primarily gay counterculture from the Rotten Apple. But maybe; the genre’s history, like the one we’re currently writing for emo, is a bewildering progression from subculture to coopting and cred wars to the eventual critical rehabilitation of transcendent sellout cheese, and dance music this century has been working its way back to the beginning. Which is where Hercules and Love Affair belongs: the implicit theme of the album, particularly in the shimmering pulse of justifiably hyped single ‘Blind’, is receptivity to pleasure. But this Love Affair isn’t just numbing hedonism — it’s a tight album, made with a crate-diver’s awareness of everything that’s happened to dance music in the past decades, from krautrock texture to house’s digital insistence to trip-hop’s downer pharmaceuticals. It’s this kind of from-within invigoration that means disco’s finally gotten where it was going: the dissolution of ironic distance.