Review Summary: A dark, claustrophobic exploration along the border between machine and humanity
It has almost become a cliché in how relentlessly electronic music has been denounced by many as pseudo-music- lifeless, mechanical, and confined to the limits of computer programs. Some producers unceasingly uphold the stereotype, but when the sharp contrast between the genre’s computerised origins and its capacity to deliver human emotion is exploited, electronic music’s individual potential as one of the most powerful types of music can be realised. With Andy Stott perfectly managing the space, texture and details of his music in the terms of this idea, Luxury Problems
is a sinister, captivating and beautiful listen.
Creating a space between the duality of the thick instrumentals underneath and Alison Skidmore’s choir-like vocals above, Luxury Problems
’s cold, isolated atmosphere creates a base for its intricate developments. The music is unsettling and dark throughout, often seeping deeply into the realms of dark ambient (see “Expecting”) with crackling samples, rumbling synthesisers in the distance and a lack of strong instrumentals to keep the music tethered. The persistent techno-style repetitions, along with the throbbing bass (heard notably on “Hatch The Plan”), maintain this disturbing vibe. Probably the most notable part of the music is the vocals- their cut up, distorted nature feeling almost like the human voice of the music trying desperately to break open and live. That Andy Stott never truly lets it do so keeps the listener on edge, all the way until gorgeous closer “Leaving”, where after briefly teasing with a spot of lightness in the form of daintily textured vocals, the music fades back into a lingering, lonely darkness for the final moments of the album, never allowed to find its peace.
It’s almost as if the instrumentals tease these vocals. The lyrics are fragmented, leaving the music in a state of ambiguity, and the melodies twisted and psychotic. But whilst the vocals form the broken and despairing side of the music, this is complemented by the beats- thick, nicely toned and groovy. These form the heart of the music, most notably on “Sleepless”, kicking in to break in the real, digestible part of the music that tries containing the rampancy of the vocals whilst remaining menacing itself. It is difficult to create rhythms which can truly support a song on its own, but on Luxury Problems
they do. However, this is part of the entire success of the album and its complex multi-dimensionality. On one level the beats provide a strong, satisfying listen, but the details and atmosphere in Luxury Problems
’s gloomy, mysterious, minimalist ambience and in the beautiful desperation of the vocals is what demands that Luxury Problems
be listened to and absorbed over and over.