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Andy Stott
Never The Right Time Liam Inscoe-Jones , April 23rd, 2021 08:13

Manchester's Andy Stott feels more washed out than dubbed out on his latest collection, finds Liam Inscoe-Jones

For much of the last decade, Andy Stott felt like the obvious inheritor of the UK dub mantle. His music slowed techno down to a heavy, glacial pace, until it felt less suited for nightclub soundsystems than solitary nighttime walking with headphones on and hoods up. His sturdy and gloomy compositions were engaging for their intensity rather than their BPMs, and seemed to reflect the damp streets and brutal concrete of his Manchester home. Albums like Luxury Problems and Faith In Strangers are modern classics; grey monoliths to contemporary urban living.

Yet while Stott’s patient style has rewarded throughout most of his fifteen years, Never The Right Time feels like the first to tip the scales from slowness into dullness. Recovering from a period of personal upheaval, Stott recorded vast swathes of raw material for the record and incorporated them into his usual statelier approach, seeking something more human than his notorious opaqueness. Truthfully though, the results just feel like a watering down of his vision, leaving the listener in a strange hinterland which doesn’t leave much of an impression either way.

An overlooked aspect of Stott’s work, especially since vocals were introduced in 2014, is its dream-pop inclinations. With delicate vocal contributions from his piano teacher Alison Skidmore shrouded in a cloud of synths and noodling guitar, the slower songs here exist somewhere in the space between Mazzy Star and Burial (yes, that middle ground does exist and its name is Andy Stott). But unlike the preciseness with which he executes his dub cuts, Stott’s airy ballads, like this album’s ‘Dove Stone’, feel pedestrian at best.

Normally when a drum-break emerges through Stott’s dreamier passages they feel colossal and ominous upon arrival, like an unnerving arbiter of impending doom. Here though the ambient passages, like opener ‘Away Not Gone’, are too impressionistic to muster much of a mood, and so the arrival of a beat or rhythm just sounds like the music finally waking up.

Stott remains a sublime sonic craftsman and chaotic moments like ‘Never The Right Time’ and ‘Answers’ do contain a familiar magic, but they stand in direct contrast with the tedium of the slower numbers. Stott has proven that he can make serene music which enraptures, but when it doesn’t work you’re just waiting for the drums to kick in like a dumb ape. There were two possible directions from the signature sound which made Stott’s name: hard industrial techno, and a kind of sleepwalk into dreariness. Sadly, this record settles on the latter.