On Hercules and Love Affair's fourth studio album, Omnion, Andy Butler and company cover way more ground than they did on previous releases — always a risky move. As an album wanders, more opportunities arise for a wrong turn. Omnion veers to a fault.
It's obvious that it's a different Hercules and Love Affair on this album from the opening title track, "Omnion." It sounds like an outtake from Arcade Fire's Reflektor era, as singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten's pleading vocals span a beat-light, synth-filled instrumental, like dance music conceived from an outside-the-genre perspective. It's a formula revisited on "Are You Still Certain," and it demonstrates the New York-based group's growth. Unfortunately, it's also symptomatic of the issues that plague the 11-song release. Not the least of Omnion's problems is that it represents change, but not for the best.
On several songs, including "Controller," "Wildchild" and "My Curse and Cure," Hercules and Love Affair wade back into familiar four-to-the-floor territory, fitting nicely with the back catalogue of the iconic Warner Music Group-owned Big Beat Records. Yet only the seventh track, "Lies," matches the charm of earlier releases. Gustaph's melancholic vocals overlay an instrumental that could've been conceived by an oddly sentient robot.
Omnion is Hercules and Love Affair's most mature album, but people have never turned to this group for introspective ballads. Now it's obvious why. (Big Beat)