Shapeshifting collective Hercules & Love Affair have been manipulating air into all sorts of sound since 2004. Revolving around DJ Andy Butler they’ve been dipping in and out of disco, house and electronica ever since, making their biggest impact with 2008’s ‘Blind’ featuring the eerily haunting vocals of Anohni (formerly Antony Hegarty, sans Johnsons). Various guest appearances and the abbreviated prefix ‘feat.’ have been their modus operandi from the kick off.
New record Omnion follows the same formula with guest vocals from The Horrors’ Faris Badwan, Sharon Van Etten and Sisy Ey, fleshed out with the regular contributors Rouge Mary and Gustaph. Seems like a lot of jumping around, right? Well, ultimately it helps the record. Not having the same voice on two consecutive tracks at any stage in the running order means the feel shifts from each song to the next. Which turns out to be something of a saving grace for Omnion as the production across the whole record is quite uniform. Without each individual voice lending its own character it’s a record that’s in danger of blending into one meandering, atmospheric soundscape with few distinguishing landmarks. Nevertheless, it’s a tool well used.
There are moments of real quality here, the title track featuring Van Etten is the sweetest, most delicate come down, helping you gently float back to earth like Forrest Gump’s feather. Badwan’s ‘Controller’ is a little more sexy, its confident strut directly after the opacity of ‘Omnion’ has you anticipating that rarest of beasts, an electronic album that avoids repetition. Arguably, this is as diverse as two neighbouring tracks gets on the record. Rouge Mary’s ‘Rejoice’ is another highlight, borrowing ‘Blue Mondays’ double kick drum to great effect, catchy dance of the euphoric variety. Gustaph’s ‘Epilogue’ sounds like something from a production of Annie where the budget could only stretch to a bag of yokes and a broken strobe light, the rest of the cash forked out to Terry Waite to play percussion on his radiator.
There is groove inducing disco/house all over this record but there is one common problem for every track. Too much fat. With the shortest song still over four minutes long it seems like every track has moments where it drifts off, therein lies the uniformity between songs. Over the course of the eleven tracks Omnion really suffers from it. It could have been a really punchy, vibrant record had a minute or so been shaved off each track. As it is, although there are excellent moments, it meanders just a wee bit. With a bit more left on the cutting room floor this good record could almost be touching greatness.