Release Date: Nov 6, 2012
Record label: Modern Love
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
One good thing to come of the Auto-Tune pandemic has been a surge in fresher, weirder sorts of cyber-vocals. Here, Manchester's Andy Stott – whose EP doubleheader Passed Me By/We Stay Together was perhaps last year's most hallucinatory armchair EDM set – hooks up with his ex-piano teacher (Alison Skidmore), who sings her way into his machines. It's dark, hypnotic, abstract and remarkably sexy.
When an artist goes back to their roots, it usually means they’re plotting some kind of formal exercise, retreading through an existing genre and subjecting listeners to a treatise on the purity of a field they’ve decided to become a tourist in. When acclaimed sub-bass advocate and creaky techno producer Andy Stott took an opportunity to glance in the rearview, he pulled out his old piano teacher Alison Skidmore and processed her voice through his factory of effects, producing something unfamiliar, alien, and thrillingly unconventional for his newest LP, Luxury Problems. Skidmore, also trained as an opera singer, is easily the element that most stands out on Luxury Problems, which otherwise seems to be a continuation of the experimentation and diversity found on Stott’s two EPs from 2011, We Stay Together and Passed Me By (the latter of which was PopMatters’ top electronic album last year).
Despite being significantly more ambient and less knotty than Andy Stott's 2011 releases, which were combined and expanded that December for Passed Me By/We Stay Together, Luxury Problems is nearly as spine-chilling. Its rhythms are fluid more often than coagulated, and there's an additional human element granted by the voice of opera-trained singer Alison Skidmore. The sense of intimacy is present from the opening "Numb," beginning with a looped intonation of "touch," a fragment of which takes the role of hi-hat before an industrial-sounding thrum -- something like a mechanical malfunction -- enters as a four-four beat.
Over the last few years, UK-based label Modern Love has been one of the most consistent outlets for forward-thinking electronic music. Andy Stott's follow-up to 2011's Passed Me By and We Stay Together EPs continues this trend. Luxury Problems is a highly impressive full-length album of dark, atmospheric techno. Five of the eight tracks feature vocals from Stott's one-time piano teacher, Alison Skidmore.
Andy Stott has always been a stylistically nimble artist. Dark and dubby has often been his thing, but he's moved around within that framework quite a bit, making straightforward dub techno under his own name and more bass-inflected sounds as Andrea. He even toyed with juke at one point. In 2011, some five years into his recording career, he started homing in on something much stranger and more personal.
The athletic and the lost each discover their limit at the moment of their realization. Gideon Haigh, discussing Shane Warne, writes: “While onlookers tended to resist the idea of Warne as an athlete because cricket involves only intermittent exertion, he achieved at peak energy the paradoxical state that is characteristic of one: immense physicality, seeming weightlessness.” Remembering Berlin, Walter Benjamin wrote: “Not to find one’s way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal. It requires ignorance — nothing more.
Andy StottLuxury Problems[Modern Love; 2012]By Will Ryan; October 26, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThe people that affect our lives build homes in our memories. For his first LP in six years, techno producer and longtime Modern Love constituent, Andy Stott, reconnected with his teenage piano teacher, Alison Skidmore, an old family friend whom he hadn't seen in nearly two decades. Skidmore is a trained opera singer and her contributions to Stott's new record, Luxury Problems, fall purely into the vocal department.
Andy Stott took his time getting here. The Manchester producer spent a good part of the last decade turning out solid tracks under his own name and under the alias Andrea. Though he always returned to dub techno, he flirted with a range of genres, from juke to house to dubstep, and some of his music was very good. But Stott never quite zeroed in on a unique voice.
In response to Deadmau5’s Album Title Goes Here earlier this year, FACT Magazine‘s John Calvert rightly mourned, “50 million American teenagers are about to form their conception of dance music. ” Thank God, then, for albums like Andy Stott’s Luxury Problems, which takes some of the most distinguishable aspects of texturology, dub, bleep, ambient, and glitch and mixes them all together in a multi-aesthetic primordial soup that highlights the individual strengths of each ingredient—a gallery for exhibiting the strange dimensions exclusive to techno. Stott is a soundsmith as digital mechanic, a producer with a rarified understanding of how to arrange silence with sound in shapes that enable them to transcend their monochromatic makeup.
No-one can do desolation quite like Andy Stott. He’s had plenty of experience - he’s from Salford - and on last year’s Passed Me By and We Stay Together EPs mixed dub techno and his own brand of 'knackered house' into treacherous, throbbing landscapes. If snow could fall on such landscapes Luxury Problems would be the result: a softer, brighter and more sultry record of mutilated house beats that features vocals, and a record whose concept of decay seems as fresh as the warehouse rave scene it’s lamenting.
Manchester producer Andy Stott might be an egghead, the sort of buttoned-up auteur concerned with how sound can be stretched or turned around, but third effort Luxury Problems has its priorities straight with its shifting, grayscale noise, sometimes sharpened, siphoned, or chopped off at the neck. The woolly vocal sample that spearheads "Numb" or the compressed, stair-stepping nudge that makes the title track a banger prove Stott's genius rises from a perturbing deftness, turning indifferent, everyday sound into a singular artistic statement. What a sublime hush of an album.
One of the most thrilling aspects of Andy Stott's recent pair of idiosyncratic EPs (Passed Me By and We Stay Together) was the feeling that one was glimpsing only a fragment of the picture. The crushing weight hinted at a hidden devastation: this was music built for a stack the size of a cathedral, albeit unlikely to be played out by any but the most adventurous of DJs due to its morbid 90 bpm pulse. Much like listening to a Sunn O))) or King Midas Sound record at home, there was a semi illicit excitement to be had by imagining the frequencies that were already doing very odd things to your head doing even stranger things at colossal volume.
Whatever dark times lie ahead, the dance floors of Manchester, England, are prepared. Between the sublime subs and eerie specters of Holy Other’s stirring debut this year and these eight tracks from fellow Manchurian Andy Stott, the spirit of the town is alive and hiding in its darkest corners. Opener “Numb” finds the disembodied voice of Alison Skidmore cutting through the void like a flashlight.
El Potro de Sinaloa The Mexican singer José Eulogio Hernandez, known as El Potro de Sinaloa (the colt of Sinaloa), puts his husky, raspy, elegant voice in front of a traditional Sinaloense brass band, with three trumpets, clarinet, tuba and two trombones in buzzing harmony. He makes big-sounding records of a modest-sounding music. On “Sin Fronteras” (Fonovisa/Universal) he leaves behind his usual territory — drug-trade songs and stories of crazy romance — to cover more sensitive Spanish-language love songs of the last 40 years, from salsa, bachata and 1970s Latin pop, with a purview skewing toward northwestern Mexico.