exists in the realm of negative space. This probably sounds like nothing new for fans of underground electronic music, the collective aim of which in the past decade or so has been to phase out the hedonistic beat-drops and bass rumbles that now characterize the mainstream. Andy Stott, then, is part of a great tradition of quiet rebellion--of detaching from conventional sources of aesthetic pleasure and trying to find something more enduring with which to replace them. This is undoubtedly an honorable cause, but not one unmarred by lamentable missteps; James Blake so thoroughly sublimated his dubstep of carnal pleasures that in a year we went from the delicious “CMYK” to, uh, “Pan”. All of this is to say that the general “negative space dance music” I’m describing, in which little clicks and samples of static replace bassy kick drums and crunchy snares, is the result of a small-scale musical rebellion, but is also only interesting when that rebellion holds some import external to thinking Skrillex sucks or whatever.
This is exactly why Andy Stott’s new album is so exciting: inside its negative space, it sustains some seriously visceral thrills. This is still music defined by its insistent minimalism, but that minimalism has been chained to an honestly filthy
grooviness. Luxury Problems
contains a lot of the sonic affectations of its more boring ambient-techno brethren (including the dreadfully overrated Ricardo Villalobos), but uses that ethereal fuzz and scant percussion to refreshingly not-boring ends. The title track has a driving groove that feels positively subterranean. “Up the Box” unleashes--you better believe it--the Amen Break to weirdly entrancing effect. Opening track “Numb” and closer “Leaving” both start as ethereal whispers before transforming into something deeper, perhaps a little menacing.
A lot of this can be attributed to Alison Skidmore, Andy Stott’s new muse (and former piano teacher), who provides gorgeous and understated vocals for almost all of the material here; countless other reviewers have correctly observed that this gives Stott’s music a newfound “human” quality. But most of the credit should be given to the man himself, who constructs something both of ethereal beauty and of muscular propulsion--a combination that, due to some weird Heisenberg principle of indie electronic music, hasn’t really existed with such potency as it does here. Thankfully, the movement now has Andy Stott to write its treatises.