Andy Stott, We Stay Together

[Modern Love]

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Earlier this year, Andy Stott released Passed Me By, a mini-LP that confounded popular opinion on his sound. Stott’s prior work tended toward shimmering dub house and dub techno, often distinctive but never especially risky. Passed Me By could feasibly be called dub house or dub techno too, albeit with one major hitch. The record drags semblances of dance rhythms to claustrophobic, murky depths, reducing uptempo tracks to seething, blotchy dirges — in short, it’s Stott moving far, far away from the club. We Stay Together, Stott’s new record, is an able companion to Passed Me By. It’s similarly mired in sludginess, and this indistinctness means it’s also an inconstant experience. Cursory listens to “Bad Wires” suggest the track’s shuffling, somnolent rhythm is rallying around a muted organ tone, like if everything wasn’t so submerged and caked in grit there would be a legitimate hook to hold onto. But listening later under slightly different circumstances, that tone’s marginal pop appeal seems like a happy accident; it flutters off into the mix, hardly fixed at all.

Apart from physical issues like tape decay, it’s odd to think of recordings as unreliable, and obviously these tracks aren’t magically remixing themselves behind your back. Stott’s sound design is such that each track feels contained, and perhaps even more than its predecessor, We Stay Together sounds preoccupied with its sonorous undercurrent. The low-end is so overwhelmingly prominent that what appears above is often wispy and fleeting, an ethereal counter to the rhythms’ bulbous trudge. Although Stott employed similar techniques on Passed Me By, there’s definitely something bleaker about this record. Tracks like “Intermittent” and “New Ground” include overt nods to funk and R&B tropes, the former in its liquid bass line, the latter in a chopped, melancholic female vocal sample. We Stay Together has no such bass lines, and when Stott messes with the (sparse) vocals, the results are creepy: the vocal on “We Stay Together (Part One)” is pitched down so low that it resembles a kind of deaf animal groan, like a bear roaring through plexiglass.

These kinds of garbled sounds abound. “Posers” pans a similarly unintelligible vocal back and forth amid a grim rhythmic rumble, while “Cherry Eye” features creaky snippets of strings and a repeating tone that recalls a nosediving airplane, both sounding utterly swamped by the track’s lurch. “Submission” is a stirring exception to the rule — all beatless, looming atmospherics, it captures a similar forlorn detachedness as pieces by Burial or Demdike Stare. Above all, We Stay Together is commendable for its mutability. It’s clearly a dense record, but its palette — foggier and more autumnal than that of Passed Me By — makes it difficult to pinpoint how, exactly. Repeat listens dredge up new hooks as much as they submerge old ones. If anything is clear, it’s that Stott’s crafted an uncommonly consuming, consistently phantasmagoric effort.

brian  on October 12, 2011 at 11:58 AM

this is some straight flame

stott has really gotten a great sound down straight up!

Martin Roberts  on October 12, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Absolutely love this record, especially Submission. His album and this record sound new to me. Awesome.

brian  on October 13, 2011 at 4:48 PM

yeah this fellow is trading some new grounds, changing up the game IMO

futurestar  on December 25, 2011 at 11:19 AM

as different and unusual as anything since the original Burial album but much, much darker, visceral, and tribal. a subtle war chant to the coming apocalypse.

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