"As an entity 'Never The Right Time' seems to have less imbalance than previous albums, a more cohesive hypnogogic introspection and equally as moody"
Manchester’s electronic auteur is back and once more channelling the industry, power and greyness of a city he has spent his whole life in. After an apparent personal upheaval and pause in music-making, the past year offered Andy Stott a chance to reimagine ‘Never The Right Time’ by spending hours re-recording, re-editing, creating. Those consecutive days or even weeks of withdrawal have left an indelible mark upon the album; the musical influences and themes incorporated have stretched his sound into newer, often darker corners of dance, bass and pop music.
His emergence in the early 2000s on Modern Love with a string of EPs and ‘Merciless‘, his debut album form 2006 – worth a refresher if you missed those – displayed his tough, low-end heavy and mechanical dub/techno hybridism. But what is often seen as the turning point for Stott was the eschewing of dancefloor destroyers for a wholly refreshing, low-slung and dilapidated take on techno. It has been 10 years since the slowed-down grumble of ‘Passed Me By‘ double EP dropped that marked this transformational divergence.
In the ten years preceding ‘Never The Right Time’, Stott released four full-length albums that built on the greyscale foundations of ‘Passed Me By’ and ‘We Stay Together‘, resulting in a singular, albeit a chaotic, dishevelled and sometimes poignant piece of work. Unmistakeable is the strain of techno, dub, bass workouts, sparkling musique concrete and avant-garde pop and the sheer breadth of sounds, moods and expressions.
The tortured and bleak take on his new deconstructed dancefloor DNA is recognisable across ‘Never The Right Time’. In ‘Away Not Gone’ long-time collaborator and mentor Alison Skidmore’s barely there breathy vocal tangles with a lonesome bass guitar that eternally reverberates and is opulent in its delicateness. ‘Repetitive Strain’ meshes forest-dwelling flutes and wind chimes with a lead-footed broken beat and acute shakers and snares rattling in trademark Stott style.
Over the course of those four albums, Stott retained an unrestrained and reckless streak. A demonic and intemperate club track hidden amongst shimmering downtrodden beauties and unintelligible vocal ditties, ready to shake you down to your bones. The same is true here, as ‘Answers’ thundering bass drum and swirling sidechain – something perhaps borrowed from his Demdike Stare pals – sidle next to distorted percussion. Broken down silverplated synth and resonating sibilants dance along erratically.
On ‘Faith In Strangers‘ (2014), ‘No Surrender’ or ‘Selfish’ from ‘Too Many Voices’ (2016) acted as precursors to the inevitable flirtation with aggression and industry. Similar to that engrained angst, Skidmore has been ever-present since ‘Luxury Problems‘ (2012) and like then, in the tracks in which she appears, her vocals are used deftly by Stott as supplementary auditory tones, that embellish the mood and diffuse the harshness of tracks.
There is a great offering of this deft arrangement in the title track, ‘Never The Right Time’, which a broken stepper drum pattern, classic rides and rattling mechanics combine rather than clash with the sometimes inaudible lyrics. A sort pseudo hook performing the role of harmonics against the rising energy of the booming claps and enveloping synth lines.
As an entity ‘Never The Right Time’ seems to have less imbalance than previous albums, a more cohesive hypnogogic introspection and equally as moody. ‘Dove Stone’ is a study of formless beauty that is both melancholic cinematic. Albeit meandering, it doesn’t necessarily feel at odds with more direct tracks. His time working with Skidmore on the piano has been well spent too. ‘When It Hits’ is a beauty that bleeds powerfully in the middle of the album despite it containing merely a few chords.
Call it a selection of songs or tracks, romantic or sparse, experimental or collapsing club music. However you choose to define it, there is something familiarly pioneering and somehow still wildly unique to Stott. Darkness and light, innovation and tradition, industry and simplicity: a chapter has been closed, but not one you should sleep on. Long live Andy Stott.
‘Never The Right Time’ is out now via Modern Love. Order a copy from Boomkat.
1. Away Not Gone
2. Never The Right Time
3. Repetitive Strain
4. Don’t Know How
5. When It Hits
6. The Beginning
8. Dove Stone
9. Hard To Tell