“Touch, touch, touchâ€¦” says the heavily aspirated vocal that opens the second album from electronic producer Andy Stott. The extraordinary, forlorn voice – sounding like a distressed angel – belongs to his former piano teacher Alison Skidmore, and her multi-tracked rhythmic part sets out Stott’s stylistic stall. If the Salford native conjures darkly unsettling and decidedly dystopian urban landscapes, pockmarked with dread and isolation, then he redeems that world via intimacy and the warmth of communication.
Skidmore’s contributions are hardly whistle-along melodies, but they do set Luxury Problems apart from Burial’s Untrue, still very much the benchmark of UK post-dubstep/illbient house, while positioning him in a continuum that stretches from Coil to The xx via Kode9 and Raime. Stott also avoids Burial’s heavy sampling, building these eight charcoal-grey soundscapes with throbbing or ominously clanking beats and scratchy industrio-electronics, (bitter)sweetened with treated vocal drop-ins.
The album works as a bleakly alluring set-piece, but “Lost And Found,” where a malevolent fog swirls around Skidmore’s ecclesiastical vocal and the aptly titled “Sleepless” – a chunk of lurching doom-funk showered in shards of brittle synth – are standouts. The pace shifts for the madly skittering, jazz-’n’-bass glitch of “Up The Box,” but drops down again with “Leaving.” It suggests an update on This Mortal Coil’s “Song To The Siren” and allows the album to end on a hopeful note, appearing like a shaft of unexpectedly bright light through the window of a derelict cathedral.