Deep, spellbinding house and techno from a master of subdued sounds.
There's a synth at the start of Andy Stott's new double EP that reminded me of something sick he made in the past. On 2007's "Fear Of Heights," a classic example of the dub techno sound Modern Love was releasing back then, the introduction of a mysterious, glassy synth line is the moment the track quietly ascends to greatness. The feel of the line at the beginning of "Dismantle" is similar, part Detroit techno, part '80s adventure movie—but what follows is an illustration of just how far an inspired producer with a taste for adventure can travel. As a listener, it's like you mistakenly took the wrong drug. The experience you're expecting reveals itself to be something else entirely, the walls of the track caving in with every smack of Stott's cruel, 70-BPM kick drum. The synth returns, all bright and optimistic, but you can't forget the horrors you've just heard.
It Should Be Us is a continuation of one of the most impressive artistic developments we've had in recent electronic music. Back in 2011, Stott stepped out with a sound unlike anything he—or anyone else, really—had done before, a seriously slow, borderline funereal techno sound made crispy through distortion. Passed Me By and We Stay Together, released a few months apart, set the tone for the following three albums, on which Stott explored differing configurations of his template, with help from the vocalist Alison Skidmore. Modern Love calls It Should Be Us a follow-up to those 2011 EPs, although that feels a little too clear cut for an artist who so completely inhabits the world he created.
In fairness though, It Should Be Us shares those EPs' warped dance-floor lean and mean streak. Luxury Problems and Faith In Strangers, the two standout albums from the Stott 2.0 period, were bloody unruly at times, but Skidmore's vocals served to sooth and humanise the music. This new one, which apparently precedes an album next year, is ghostly and grim, with the radiance of Stott's synths allowed only to penetrate the gloom in periodic bursts. It's telling that Stott somehow makes this aesthetic seem so compelling, a type of dark energy that makes you want to hit a punch bag or chair dance rather than wade in self-reflection.
Dance rhythms feature throughout the EP, although it's sadly challenging to think of a party at which these tracks would get played. On "Promises" and "It Should Be Us," Stott sets up the perception of an irregular rhythm before grinding four-on-the-floor kick patterns emerge. There's some Jlin-style footwork vibes running through "Collapse" and "Ballroom," while "Take" has what sounds like a soul sample, stolen by a hip-hop artist and then dragged across the desert floor. "Versi" initially sounds like Shed played at 33 and -8 before revealing its damaged euphoria. "0L9" might actually be the straightest thing Stott has written in a while, a rapid (by his standards) 116-BPM house bounce with icy vocal samples and plenty of funk. There's a rough-and-ready, almost live-performance feel to the track and others here—it wouldn't be surprising if It Should Be Us is a clearing of the cobwebs before Stott finds a new way to bend his sound on the forthcoming full-length.
04. It Should Be Us
06. Not This Time