Described by Modern Love boss Shlom Sviri as “one of the most musically hungry people I’ve ever met” , Andy Stott has more than lived up to that description since starting work with the label. His 2006 debut LP, ‘Merciless’, explored delicate piano through to techy disco tinged work outs and starry eyed Detroit rumblings – altogether providing a compelling initial album not least highlight of the year.
A brace of dubby techno influenced EPs followed, across which you can hear Stott’s style slowly mutate until hitting a career step change in 2011 with an extraordinary string of releases forging distressed foggy gloom experimentation with peculiar yet beguiling low tempo wallop. “Passed Me By” and “We Stay Together” targeted a unique signature sound of side chain compressed murky techno thump and commenced a production trajectory leading to breakthrough album ‘Luxury Problems‘ in 2012. Utilising vocal textures from his childhood piano teacher, Alison Skidmore, Stott conjured up a strikingly beautiful sound palette – somewhere between underwater club filth and late night living room head nod.
And where next after such a defining release? A total curve ball or a natural progression? Somehow on ‘Faith in Strangers‘, Stott has managed both. For the long term fan it will both confuse and delight on the first few listens. Stott has teamed up with Skidmore again to deliver more traditionally structured songs – an idea that might strike fear into many a listener of his predominantly instrumental output. But, artists need to venture into territories new and the introduction of full vocal workouts into Stott’s repertoire pays off handsomely, creating a kind of deeply moody Portishead meets electronic experimentation masterpiece in the process, a coup not just for the artist but Modern Love too.
The whole thing still sounds quintessentially ‘Stott’ (yep – heavy and dark as f**k) yet is no doubt a distinct progression from “Luxury Problems”. Just two tracks utilise a prominent 4/4 (“How it Was” and “Science and Industry“) the latter featuring kicks in double time against a syrupy bass and perky woodblocks. Distorted breaks and manipulated found sounds are inscrutably encrusted on “How it Was” – layering filth in typical unforgiving and downright future thinking style. “Damage” explores similar areas, firing body slam missiles across a splintered break, primed to startle the dance with seismic effect.
Yet, alongside all this somehow fits Skidmore’s vocals and, quite possibly, some of the most beautiful experimental dark pop music to emerge from Manchester in recent times. “Faith in Strangers” will bring a tear to the eye whilst “Violence” and “On Oath” surround her voice with passive aggressive organic clunk. As steely grey as its monochrome cover yet complimented with a lighter touch from Skidmore – “Faith in Strangers” is a bold and hugely satisfying move from an, as ever, progressive producer.
Faith In Strangers is out now on Modern Love, order a vinyl copy from Boomkat.