, November 2nd, 2012 08:29
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. The submerged and fraught sound that Stott writ (very) large on those EPs was an extreme vision – and as such it took time, effort and certain dedication to get the best listening experience at home.
Indeed that pair of aural jugged hares - great thickenings of blood, wine, and half rotted meat, slowly falling from bleached bones - seemed to be cackling at the churning hype machine, inviting you to invest serious time or not bother at all. Stott shot a rough hewn, blurred vision of techno that was so far removed from its traditional trajectory as to exist in its own space-time continuum. Thankfully, Luxury Problems is every bit as involving – and works as a companionable and robust subterfuge to his darkest excesses, with kinks of light piercing the greyscale cover and a newfound clarity in production values letting in all manner of previously hidden delight.
'Numb' leads with a reverb heavy vocal from Stott's former piano teacher Alison Skidmore weaved into a remarkably assertive refrain. However, any lingering concern that we may be entering, ahem, "achingly beautiful" coffee bar fodder is put paid to by the monolithic stomp employed exactly 2 minutes and 24 seconds in – the patented Stott kick that sounds like it's built from 26 layers of sub, rather than an actual drum source. It sucks the air from the room.
'Sleepless' would have made a great loud cut 12" - it shows where his sound can begin to make sense alongside a very real dancefloor sensibility. A rising swell of drone, clattering industrial percussion, enough sub to bring down an albatross and then that kick again, grinding in hard, for a scant two minutes. 'Luxury Problems', the title track, is a driving monster. Here Stott employs the idea of the cut – cutting elements in and out as if moving the cross fader across the mixer - literally. Thus we get great swathes of rainbow melody and crisply EQ'd percussive elements coming in, underpinned by a thumping groove. A compelling and brutally driven piece of rough cut chug – you could imagine Andy Weatherall playing this after a couple of hours in the box in Fabric, that kind of chug.
The degradation - the feeling of ancient sound source, skewed, chopped and brutalised - remains, but in a more immediately approachable form. Vocals act in no small part as a melodic anchor, Alison Skidmore's voice featuring on every track in some capacity, providing a human light. 'Luxury Problems' plays like a logical continuation of this chapter of Stott's music – the sweet spot between fear, obstruction and the warm embrace of total sound immersion. He hasn't turned down the Stott; he's turned up the music.