Andy Stott, Passed Me By

[Modern Love]

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How much can you strip away from something before it’s no longer the thing you started with? Is there some pivot-point at which the shadow of the thing ceases to represent anything at all, becoming not much more than a hazy, amorphous form darker than what surrounds it? The record I’ve had on repeat recently has got me thinking about little else. The thing in question here is house music; the guy with the Exacto knife is Modern Love’s golden boy Andy Stott; and the shivery shadow is Passed Me By, said golden boy’s latest release. Stott — without question one of the most inventive bass music heads around by way of his Millie & Andrea project with Miles Whittaker, not to mention a deeply on-point wrangler of techno under his own name — has twisted and tugged at our perceptions of dance genres before, most recently when he stretched dub textures out like Silly Putty on “Tell Me Anything,” his last solo outing for Modern Love. But what he’s done to house music across the four sides of Passed Me By — and I’m arguing that somewhere inside all this gory throbbing lie six carcasses of straight-up, four-to-the-floor house tunes — constitutes violence against peak time on an order you probably wouldn’t expect out of a producer whose records tend to embrace it. Passed Me By might be dance music shaved down to within an inch of its life, but it’s an inch far too tantalizing to be left for dead.

Where Shackleton — a distant sonic relative, to be sure, but admittedly a good reference point — takes us deep inside ourselves, Andy Stott instead puts us immediately in the present: this ain’t no pre-historical tribal jam; rather, it’s guerrilla fucking warfare. Each track places you on a block where a bomb just went off the moment before your heart’s gotten the message to start racing. The disorientation begins with the woozy “Signature,” a half-minute of gurgling and a necessary pallet-cleanser for what’s to come. The assault starts in earnest with “New Ground,” and it’s difficult to think of a better title for the track: a lonely voice calls out over a recently bombed-out landscape, the only perceptible movement in the track before sinister hi-hats start skittering across its scorched earth in the track’s final third. “North To South” sounds like an air raid might through ears deafened by an overabundance of them. In another producer’s hands, you’d expect the track to feel lifeless, but through the iciest of melodies, Stott creates a nearly anthemic moment, albeit one carried out in slow-motion. “Intermittent” features a soul sample so chopped to smithereens, you wouldn’t have the remotest sense of the source material if Stott didn’t reconstitute it as the track enters its death throes. The only track which might find its way into a DJ set not otherwise made up only of Workshop B-sides, the cavernous “Dark Details,” steps with the swagger and snap of a man who’s just sold his soul to the devil; hear it, and you’re likely to skank your way to the opposite side of the street. To be the darkest transmission of this collection is something of a feat, but “Execution” accomplishes it: excruciatingly slow and brimming with satanic growls, it even out-creeps Stott’s label-mates Demdike Stare.

How strange, then, that the set ends on a note that feels nearly poignant. Heavy and hungover, “Passed Me By” suggests this horror-show may have been little more than an unwise combination of substances. You’re feeling it today, to be certain, but as the sunlight trickles in for the first time in what feels like centuries, you realize how singular a spirit-journey Andy Stott has taken you on. I’m not sure what context these tracks were intended for (other than a moderate-to-severe panic attack), but I have no doubt that they represent a leap forward for someone whose studio chops needed no proving. House music has officially gotten its side blown off, and while the vast majority of adherents to the genre will easily shake this one off, I’m excited to hear from those producers who are truly injured or at the very least traumatized by the experience. I suspect all listeners will be left wondering what happened last night and where this lingering sense of dread is coming from. But we’ll let out a sigh, put on our shades, gladly accept that Bloody Mary, and slide ever so slowly into Monday, hoping all of this was just a deliciously strange dream.

Joseph Hallam  on May 17, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Great review.

Simon  on May 17, 2011 at 4:36 PM

It’s been said already but I’ll say it again: Great review.

Record ordered and on its way.

Pete Srdic  on May 17, 2011 at 4:50 PM

Top review & on the money.
My two bobs worth is to my initial surprise, this is quite a departure from Stott’s previous work (which I encourage tracking down, it’s amazing, detailed and frequently quite beautiful). Beautiful can’t be used to describe this release though. As above it is quite dark and post-apocalyptic sounding, but that’s what makes it the superb release it is.
Stott’s sound design can be quite off the wall, even unique. Demonstrated very well with this EP, especially ‘Execution’. Love it.

Blaktony  on May 18, 2011 at 9:15 AM

Ugly & beautiful @ the same time (love it).

stu  on May 19, 2011 at 6:52 AM

great review

Lupo  on May 22, 2011 at 9:57 PM

Absolutely cracking record and a matching review. Listening to Anty Stott’s music on a proper sound system is such bliss, so much depth…Love this!

stuart  on May 28, 2011 at 6:55 PM

yeah, these recordings sound really good on a large, high quality sound system. It feels like swimming in a big pool of thick, black, viscous bass, punctuated by bursts of disembodied soul.


Joshualine  on June 17, 2011 at 12:56 AM

Good to see house charred like this, the club reduced to a bonfire (and we the natives of the cover dancing around it) but if we look back at what house has been doing for the past… ten years? – is it really this fresh and new? Not too big a leap from burial, Actress, etc. Another take here:

Andrew  on December 3, 2011 at 9:22 AM

Great review, although I don’t think the album should be *that* much of a surprise if you’ve been keeping an eye on things since Basic Channel. Gas, Deepspace/Echocord, Burial, Actress, Demdike Stare and even as Joshualine’s excellent blog post points out, Pole, all act as building blocks to what we have here. For me it’s the tribal aspects that lift it above being this year’s spooky-sounding-album to namedrop, and it took me a couple of listens to work out that its as close to African Head Charge as it is to any of the above. What’s being deconstructed here may well be House, but it’s also Adrian Sherwood.


Modern Love now available on Beatport | dj-world blog  on June 2, 2011 at 5:19 PM

[…] Stott released his new album, Passed Me By, which has received rave reviews from Pitchfork, Fact, Little White Earbuds, and other publications for its apocalyptically bleak, slow-motion […]

Modern Love now available on Beatport  on June 2, 2011 at 5:45 PM

[…] Stott released his new album, Passed Me By, which has received rave reviews from Pitchfork, Fact, Little White Earbuds, and other publications for its apocalyptically bleak, slow-motion […]

New Record Arrivals « Beacon Sound  on August 21, 2011 at 9:09 PM

[…] Stott “Passed Me By” (Modern Love) $23 //review another […]

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