Miles Whittaker and Andy Stott treat their Millie & Andrea alias like a costume. Over their original run of singles from 2008 through 2010, they hid behind their masks to try out jungle, garage and juke. A tad less serious than most of their music, the tracks were often illuminating ("Temper Tantrum," "You Still Got Me"), but amidst renewed interest in Stott solo and the ascent of Whittaker's Demdike Stare, Millie & Andrea fell to the wayside. Stage 2 marked their return in 2014, but the disappointing trap pastiche fell flat—for the first time ever, they sounded out of touch, like they were trying to wrap their heads around what the kids like these days. In its wake comes Drop The Vowels, their first full-length together, and one that sees them sounding comfortable and capable.
As if to remind us of the duo's foresight, Drop The Vowels includes two older tracks that sound remarkably current. With their junglist tendencies and crunchy drums, "Temper Tantrum" and "Spectral Source" sound very 2014, and they sit well with the LP's six newer tunes, all presented with the same worn facade. Everything sounds rough and scratchy, like the rasp that coughs out of blown speakers. That aesthetic that works best on the stellar "Stay Ugly," which fashions rusty rhythms à la FXHE into lashing breaks and mournful pads.
This pervasive bleakness has a numbing effect, however, and the duo rarely feel like they're trying anything new. The murky techno of "Back Down" sounds like Stott by numbers, sailing on a distant slowed-down sample. Only the album's bookends, the symphonic decay of closer "Quay" and the ponderous faucet-dripping beat of "GIF RIFF," really bring anything to the table. Even the jungle blitzes feel standard by now. When Stott let an amen break rip in "Up The Box" back in 2012, it was breathtaking and prescient. When album centrepiece "Corrosive" switches from grinding trap into brutal jungle, it's almost expected.
That's not to take away from "Corrosive," which, with its colliding rhythms and loop-de-loop synths, is one of the record's most memorable tracks. But it's dampened by a sense of complacency unbefitting of Stott and Whittaker—which might be intentional. You could think of those early Millie & Andrea releases as fun little asides that didn't necessarily fit into Stott and Whittaker's respective discographies but were good enough to release anyway. If that's the case, then Drop The Vowels follows suit: a solid diversion from two artists who we know can do better.
Tracklist01. Giff Riff
02. Stay Ugly
03. Temper Tantrum
04. Spectral Source
06. Drop The Vowels
07. Black Down