Andy Stott: Faith in Strangers (Modern Love)
Andy Stott has really forged his own unique path over the past several years, beginning unassumingly enough with his first two collections of singles and EPs (Merciless and Unknown Exception) before turning up the grit, slowing down the tempo, and diving deep into the subterranean sounds of his often beguiling grooves on a series of EPs and an excellent album last year, Luxury Problems. Faith in Strangers feels like the more reflective counterpart to its predecessor, starting off feeling almost like a skimming off the top of LP’s drippy reverb and haunting vocals courtesy of Stott’s childhood piano teacher, Alison Skidmore. Stott’s knack for enhancing the gritty underbelly of his sounds comes through more clearly as the album proceeds, particularly on the strange and swollen sounds of “How it Was” or the more dubstep-infused bite of “Damage.” And this amalgamation of sounds old and new makes perfect sense give his trajectory over the last handful of releases on Modern Love, but the title track is startlingly accessible, uptempo, and melodic — it’s built around a jaunty, light electro drum pattern and dreamy IDM pads along with Skidmore’s breathy vocal.
Much like the title track on Luxury Problems was the linchpin of the release for me, “Faith in Strangers” is a breath of fresh air and my favorite here, perhaps a sign of where Stott might be taking his music from here? Time will tell. Despite Luxury Problems being far more immediate to my ears (and much quicker to like as a result), Faith In Strangers is full of surprises, including its drowsy opening and closing. As an outro, “Missing” has more in common with Blackest Ever Black than anything on Modern Love, but it makes sense when played start to finish. This is not an album of compiled tracks but a suite of music that is best appreciated in sequence and in context. It rewards patient listeners with its details and narrative arc, another solid offering from Mr. Stott.