Andy Stott, Faith in Strangers

Zach Kelly

By Zach Kelly

on 12.03.14 in Reviews

Andy Stott might not strike you as an artist with a lot of crossover potential. From the ashen dub techno rumblings of his work in the late ’00s to his various collaborations with Manchester-based Modern Love label-mates Demdike Stare, Stott’s idea of a proper dancefloor seems to be all crumbling concrete and brushed steel. But on 2012′s enigmatic full-length Luxury Problems, Stott found himself starting to wriggle free from his corroded shackles and open up a bit, thanks in no small part to the addition of his former piano teacher Alison Skidmore’s vocals. Now with follow-up Faith in Strangers, Skidmore’s presence is once again a focal point, gracing almost every track. But instead of continuing their exploration of Problems‘ more meditative planes, here Stott and Skidmore delve back into the depths, mining mantle-crumbling beats engorged with dread and cautious beauty.

Mining mantle-crumbling beats engorged with dread and cautious beauty

Stott has always been great with specific standalone sounds, and Faith in Strangers spotlights some of his best. Opener “Time Away” features what sounds like an evil version of the Ricola horn. It’s a subtle warning of what’s to come, including synths that sound like falling icicles (“No Surrender”), elemental swells (“Science & Industry”) and a plethora of indefinable percussive elements, from malfunctioning mechanized drums to Skidmore’s diced-up vocals. On the forlorn “On Oath,” she flits about your headphones like a moth in light.

All of this could be a little overwhelming, but Stott has an uncommonly good ear for contrast, streaking his formidable compositions with beams of pale light. The caustic rusty toolbox techno of “Damage” gets some lift from lightly funky bells; amid the chaotic trashcan wallops on “No Surrender,” chimes sparkle like fireflies. As a palate cleanser, there’s the oddly loungey IDM title track, a sly hat-tip to Aphex Twin. It’s most certainly an outlier, but also a reminder of how much range Stott has when he feels like letting a little light in. And just as quickly, he’s waded back into the black on the strange, atmospheric closer “Missing,” slipping and sliding into the murky ethers and eventually out of sight.