Andy Butler’s fifth LP arrived with a telling press quote: “In all honesty, based mostly on [the] preliminary soundscapes, I didn’t know this was going to be a Hercules and Love Affair album.” And from the onset of In Amber, it’s abundantly clear what he means. “Grace” begins off with punchy kick drums, twinkling piano loops, and deep bass notes, but it surely’s all taken a couple of steps away from the dancefloor Butler has lengthy known as residence. Every little thing strikes slightly below 120 BPM and the combo is mild and spacious, leaving loads of room for his unassuming baritone to inform his story of self-empowerment. Straddling the road between experimentation and reinvention, Butler strips away the undertaking’s normal membership music trappings to focus on weightier themes and darker private expression.
For a producer and songwriter who’s spent almost a decade and a half sculpting the golden eras of disco, home, and techno in his personal picture, Butler makes a daring change of course throughout these 12 songs. Prospers of post-punk, goth, industrial, and the perimeters of Eighties rock are scattered all through the manufacturing, paired with uniquely different vocal performances. Most notable is the return of ANOHNI, who—14 years after her efficiency in “Blind” helped outline the sound of H&LA—brings an important vitality that ranges from despondent to livid. In “Christian Prayer,” ANOHNI denies concepts of an afterlife as she shouts by means of searing guitar suggestions and rumbling drum fills, “Once I die, don’t enchantment to your godhead.” Then within the simmering anthem of dismissal “Contempt for You,” she repeats like a rousing mantra, “Certain am glad I survived, however I’ve obtained nothing however contempt for you.” The trend isn’t hopeless: By some means, the uncooked conviction makes her phrases really feel uplifting and communal.
There are additionally areas for reflection and calm, which are sometimes the place the album falters. Icelandic singer Elín Ey lends the downtempo “Dissociation” a delicate poise, although her placid supply sounds nameless in comparison with ANOHNI’s injured tremble on the stripped-down elegy “Who Will Save Us?” The funeral march of “You’ve Gained This Struggle” fixates on a two-chord development round which the fluctuating association orbits, as Butler oscillates between grim talk-singing and a kind of regal chant. However regardless of its slicing dynamics and variety of sounds, the track’s six minutes of sullen Ren Faire theatrics appear to plod aimlessly. Butler makes use of a equally linear construction with “The Eyes of the Father” and elevates his concepts with a string part, lyrical guitar leads, digital noise, and stirring vocals. The music feels meditative, and its layered association swells and contracts alongside the lyrics’ emotional uncertainty.
Butler has all the time sounded most assured when writing for the dancefloor, so it’s no shock many of the standouts fall in that consolation zone. At its core, “Killing His Household” well blends distorted percussion with a bouncy home bassline, which Butler makes use of to shift between moody, deconstructed verses and poignant, earwormy choruses. The acerbic “Toxic Storytelling” is a extreme, drum-heavy pop ballad that’s equal components industrial techno and angelic chamber music. For all of the style mixing and manufacturing aptitude, there’s nothing kinetic or buoyant sufficient to face alongside his best-loved floor-fillers, although “One” comes closest. The track embraces their foundational strengths, constructed round an insistent, detuned bass loop and ANOHNI’s most magnetic and rousing efficiency right here. It’s the sort of emotionally charged, genre-invigorating traditional that Hercules and Love Affair has turn out to be identified for. On In Amber, Butler might have discovered a handful extra peaks and his share of valleys, however few can emerge from the shadow of what got here earlier than.
All merchandise featured on Pitchfork are independently chosen by our editors. Nevertheless, while you purchase one thing by means of our retail hyperlinks, we might earn an affiliate fee.