- A noir-pop milestone for the Manchester artist.
- In his 2015 interview for Resident Advisor, Andy Stott told a hilarious story about playing his demos at the garage where he worked. "They'd say, 'This is what you do?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, this is something I'm working on,' and they're like, 'Right, you're gonna be working here forever!' Funny." While Stott's good humor was surely appreciated, his colleagues were sorely mistaken. Stott's chopped & screwed, collagist take on techno, pop and hardcore struck a chord far beyond the insular world of experimental electronic music. The former paint sprayer is now a bona fide crossover artist.
For all his fans, Stott's body of work is a critic's dream. A common trope within music journalism involves some pedantic writer (couldn't be me) complaining about how a musician has not satisfactorily innovated over a previous release. This is usually flawed thinking—needless innovation is where many artists lose the plot—but such is not the case for Andy Stott, who is dead set on coming up with a slightly different sound each time out.
Setting the stage for a landmark release, Stott's long-time label Modern Love includes an elegant summary of his sonic progression over the past decade in the press notes, as well as a dizzying list of influences. But this blustery pre-amble isn't just hot air. This relatively brief (at 41 minutes) album contains Stott's most satisfying songs to date.
As usual, Stott's former piano teacher Alison Skidmore plays a crucial role on Never The Right Time. Back in the Luxury Problems era, Stott applied a cut-up approach to her dulcet voice, but here, Skidmore's phrasing is unedited, leading a suite of atmospheric pop songs. The album is bookended by songs I'd dub spaghetti shoegaze—the opener sounds a bit like This Mortal Coil trying their hand at a Western soundtrack. The closer, "Hard To Tell," even incorporates, big, twangy guitar chords.
But fans of Stott's trademark knackered house sound needn't worry. The massive drums and sheets of sound that have defined his music for years are now integrated into more traditional song structures. The title track, which typically acts as a statement of purpose on Stott's albums, has slivers of Robin Guthrie-style guitar but quickly morphs into a lurching, UK club-indebted synth pop variant. "Repetitive Strain" is a dizzying 2-step instrumental whose wild arpeggios are prefaced by blurry rave chords. "Answers," meanwhile, is straight-up ruffneck business for fans of Stott's Millie & Andrea collaboration with MLZ.
Amidst the genre experiments and the club-adjacent tracks, there's a serious romantic streak running through Never The Right Time. The aforementioned list of influences includes the Junior Boys, and "Don't Know How" is a close cousin of Jeremy Greenspan's lovelorn dance pop. The album's beating heart may be "When It Hits" and "The Beginning," two back-to-back stunners that signal the record's second act. The former is just a few, cavernous piano chords, a dramatic intro tucked halfway through the album. "The Beginning," meanwhile, is oddly straightforward for a Stott track, with Skidmore's vocals taking on an airy, Chromatics-style wistfulness before a lovely, closing credits-style outro.
The series of records (Passed Me By through Luxury Problems) that marked Stott's sonic transition were both magnetic and slightly off-putting. In recent years, Stott has alternately spurned and embraced the nasty side of his sound, but on Never The Right Time, he nails a difficult balance between bass weight and pop vulnerability. Stott's severe, black-and-white album covers have always reflected the mood of his music, but on Never The Right Time—as in Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire—we see a dramatic flash of color within the monochromatic landscape.
01. Away Not Gone
02. Never The Right Time
03. Repetitive Strain
04. Don't Know How
05. When It Hits
06. The Beginning
08. Dove Stone
09. Hard To Tell