Music review: Andy Stott – “Faith in Strangers”

By Matthew Gundrum —

In 2012, Manchester-based Music Producer Andy Stott made waves in the electronic music community with his album “Luxury Problems.” The forefront of this project featured dark and sludgy production layered over driving techno beats and cold female vocals. Prior to this release, it seemed as if Stott was still trying to find his niche in the electronic landscape. “Luxury Problems” was essentially a perfection of his craft and solidified his place in the minimal techno scene.andy-stott-cover_Image

Fast forward to 2014 and Stott is at it once again. His new LP “Faith in Strangers” is a sonic exploration into new territory. With this project, Stott primarily utilized a drum machine as opposed to his older work where music-making programs were favored. This hardware-over-software approach has produced a dynamic record that is classically Stott– brooding, atmospheric and hard-hitting.

“Faith in Strangers” is most definitely a step in a new direction. This is immediately clear with the album’s opener “Time Away.” This track cannot stand on its own and is purposefully created with the rest of the album in mind. Its ominous nature foreshadows what’s soon to come. Specialized intro tracks are new for Stott, a producer who typically dives right in with his work. “Time Away” succeeds in darkening the ambiance, the preferred type of lighting for this particular artist.

The ominous theme carries into the first part of the following track “Violence.” Female vocals with added reverb effects are accompanied by a harsh, repeating synth burp. This formula is maintained for the first couple minutes, until the primary drum effects come in, accelerating the momentum ever so slightly. Going farther into the track, synths seep in through the background, barely making an appearance. These synths then explode into the mix, serving as the tracks focal point. The sound is grimy, slow, sharp and enormous. The moment comes as a shock, albeit a pleasurable one.

Things die down a bit with the following track “On Oath,” a somber intro giving way to an industrial-influenced groove. The industrial touch on this song acts as a repeating theme throughout the rest of the album. These sounds are often characterized as metallic and calculating: echoing the likeness of functioning machinery. A prime example of such a technique is the aptly titled “Science and Industry.” This particular track is driven by a simple drum-pad beat. However, a layer of complexity appears when a loop effect is added reminiscent of clanging metal in a factory.

The heavy focus on industrial soundscapes fades away at the end of the album. It is here where Stott reverts back to his dark and ominous production style on the closer tracks “Faith in Strangers” and “Missing.” The two work in concert to bring about a very effective outro.

While not as prolific as “Luxury Problems,” Andy Stott has definitely achieved something great here. He has effectively utilized a familiar style and morphed it into something else that is both fresh and pleasing. This release further proves that Stott is an incredibly capable producer with a knack for creating some of the most poignant compositions in electronic music.

“Faith in Strangers” will be released Nov. 18 on Modern Love records. You can stream the album in full here via NPR: http://www.npr.org/2014/11/09/361384510/first-listen-andy-stott-faith-in-strangers

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