Andy Stott holds a unique place in the world of electronic music. Though involved in techno spheres for over a decade, since 2011 his music has increasingly favoured murk and atmosphere over beats and momentum, leading to moments on his 2014 album Faith In Strangers that sounded more like a cue from an 80’s horror flick than something you can reasonably expect in a nightclub.
Stott continues this development on his latest album – ‘Waiting For You’ begins with the kind of atonal pads and squeaks perfected by Daniel Lopatin’s Oneohtrix Point Never project, suggesting that much like Lopatin’s excursions into reimagining the neon-clad past as a lightly pixelated hellscape, Stott’s focus here is on presenting sounds from throughout electronic music’s history in a new, slightly weathered light – like a rave tape disintegrating as it plays, brutal yet beautiful.
‘New Romantic’ envelops the vocals of Alison Skidmore (continuing her fruitful collaboration with Stott for the third album in a row) with the kind of bright, seductive synth riffs typical of new wave, befitting the track’s title. However, the feeling generated is distinctly bittersweet, the unintelligible lyrics sounding like a sweet nothing lost among the noise. If the darkest moments of Faith In Strangers were reminiscent of John Carpenter mangled through a 3D printer, I can see a track like ‘New Romantic’ soundtracking a meet-cute in a romantic comedy directed by Black Swan’s Darren Aronofsky.
Despite the lack of a straightforward 4/4 beat you can easily mix into a DJ set, Stott is still fascinated by the potential of drum machines, and plays with expectations of how the parameters of rhythm are usually constructed. He has stated in interviews the influence of early 2000’s grime (think pre-‘Bonkers’ Dizzee Rascal and the like) on the album, leading to him seeking out the Korg Triton used on many of those records to use the sounds of the UK underground to develop his own world. ‘Selfish’ and ‘Over’ are exercises in finding the gold in cheap presets, as kicks and heavily distorted claps rumble in fits and starts and trip over themselves to gain dominance in the mix.
The most straightforward and traditional of the tracks presented here is ‘On My Mind’, featuring a strong melodic riff largely untainted by grain, and sounding like an unfinished demo one vocal track from Sade away from completion. It’s a nice reminder of Stott’s ability to mine influence from strong pop when he feels like it, but largely the album continues his experimental streak with increasingly interesting results, and the less claustrophobic atmosphere here will likely mean that it’ll be an easier pill to swallow for newcomers than Faith, though there are plenty of signs of further unexplored terrain for him to explore: the closing title track, for example, is composed entirely of processed and pitched vocals, with Skidmore lamenting being “miles from home”. If the past five years has shown Stott finally finding a sound that is uniquely his, Too Many Voices proves that perfecting a style is never a one-and-done proposition. Who knows if Stott’s sound will ever reach “home”, but the journey there is captivating enough.