"Andy Stott crushes and cajoles a limited, but stunningly crafted sound palette, into a northern accented furnace"
The nights are drawing in. Dark when you get up for work. See no daylight. Leave work, still dark. November, in my part of the world, 25 miles from where Andy Stott plies his trade, is damp, rainy, cold and dank. Yellow streetlights refract lazily off potholed streets dimly lighting our way home to 130-year-old stone terraces.
As the Northern mill towns satellite the major Manchester conurbation, sitting in the shadowed valleys of imposing hillsides, the stories this landscape holds are many – shrouded by cloud, mysterious, intractable, immovable and inspirational simultaneously.
They cast a foggy shadow over us, and uncanny winds whistling through the cracks in the dry stonewalls blow the spirits of rebellious witches down the steep hillsides. It’s an unruly north we inhabit, where people have always danced in the fields and fought for their independence. There is harshness here, but one tempered by community. Muck, brass and melody.
Across East Lancashire, the empty warehouses perched on the top of these hills, became the covens of modern witchcraft. Wizards and witches were spewing acid into the ears and hearts of a disenfranchised, forgotten and maligned youth. The ingredients they needed to create these sonic potions were transferred across oceans.
An unrecognisable language imprinted into oily residues; black flying saucers landing on Lancashire from a future of industrial deconstruction. The ravers danced out pre neo-liberal constructions of self, new sonic truths sounded without compromise, for a world on the verge of collapse into corporate servitude.
The dancers stomping footsteps still ring out across the valleys. The echoes of 303 resistance have been commercially re-appropriated in every retro adidas shell topped, Fila boot wearing, bucket headed kid, walking through the gentrified areas of every city in the world.
Here, these grainy VHS memories, crushed TDK hiss laden magnetic mnemonics accompany our journeys through this ancient landscape, stepping out into those rainy winter nights. We’ve heard the records, seen the footage and listened to the mythical tales in the pub, all of the time secretly feeling like ‘It Should Be Us’.
What Andy Stott delivers with this record, is a portrait of us. He’s been perfecting it for some time, like a Francis Bacon rendering of our imagined memories, granulating through the strobe. No corporate sponsorship here, no flavoured gins, no full sleeve tattoos, no phones, just Joe Bloggs, trodding home, ears ringing with pitched triumphal horn stabs, basslines playing out in slow motion as counterpoint to each shifting footstep, and the joyous soulful voices drift in slivers across your consciousness.
These are crystalline memories that will hopefully keep the bureaucratic reality of Monday as far away as possible, but are tinged with the anxiety of having to deal with it. Lost music to stay lost. Scared, scarred and sacred meditations on dance, dancers and midnight ravers, bump across the now derelict floors and through Stott’s studio.
On ‘Not this Time’ with its musique concrète opening and filtered bridge, it feels like Stott is guiding us through the derelict barn doors to partake clandestinely of his fucked northern funk. It lifts and falls with the heightened dynamics of a track twice its size and adorned with all the studio tricks available. But Andy Stott crushes and cajoles a limited, but stunningly crafted sound palette, into a northern accented furnace, and delivering a masterful congealing of dance music history, heard through the reverberant spaces collapsing ballrooms and the tension of dismantled promises.
‘It Should Be Us’ is out now on Modern Love. Order a copy from Boomkat.
4. It Should Be Us
6. Not This Time