Review Summary: A sound engineer's wet dream
Andy Stott's biggest problem is his catalog. It's just too damn consistent, too good to be ignored; each new release has got to pass the difficult test of constant comparison. Each stylistic change is going to be judged not only on its intrinsic qualities, but more importantly in the light of which paths were already trodden by past outputs. Because if Stott always wanted to come up with a different sound for each release, he has however never fallen into the trap of drastically changing what was already working, slowly building a comprehensive body of work in which each element takes a step in a different direction while still cultivating the same themes of decaying electronic music. Since 2011's Passed Me By
, he's been steadily remodeling his vision of club music: at first an interpretation of "physical and spiritual exhaustion", he then proceeded to visit the genre's most desolate corners throughout his various LPs. Now, two years after outsider house double EP/faux-LP It Should Be Us
, Never the Right Time
takes clubbing into the promiscuity of one's bedroom, lava lamps superseding flashy stroboscopes, people being replaced by teddy bears.
Techno has thus been completely abandoned by the English texturer, UK bass and ambient fighting to take the lead, with club-adjacent inclinations in the form of deconstructed club and post-industrial make discrete apparitions. It's cold. Fucking cold even, but there is enough nuance and syncopation here that guarantee that the piece is not only a succession of doomer synth waves and lo-fi percussions. Whether the tracks breathe calm like glimmering opener "Away not gone" - where spatialized chords reverberate what seems like an empty club's void - or groove like "Repetitive strain" - which sees flute motifs bouncing as counterpoints to the deconstructed basses - Stott has enveloped his palette with dark(er) undertones in an almost romantic, poppy way. These pop linings, bringing more atmosphere than catchiness, mostly emanate through longtime partner-in-crime and former piano teacher Alison Skidmore's vocals. Constantly drenched in reverberations, her voice inclines towards a chimeric tenderness. With so many effects applied to her voice, Skidmore acts not as a purveyor of meaning, but as a conveyor of atmosphere. The lyrical content matters here as much as on Cocteau Twins' Treasure
; it's rather in the way her vocal inquietude curl up inside the palpitating basses and disintegrated drums that the record gains its hypnotic nature. Fittingly, Never the Right Time
closes with the shoegazest Stott has ever been, eerie synths and a twangy guitar wrapping up the album's longing essence in less than five minutes.
Yet, in a discography as dense as the "monochromatically splendid cover art" one, Never the Right Time
isn't really going to challenge the top spot, simply because the man has crafted more enthralling pieces in the past. It might simply be considered as another Andy Stott record, which is still a lot better than a whole lot from everyone else. It's just not as big of a statement as spatialization experiment piece Luxury Problems
, or as nocturnal technobanger Faith in Strangers
. The record's fault mainly comes in the form of an overall lack of fluidity. Tracks come in, reveal their gorgeous arrangements, yet many seem unresolved. "Dove stone" elicits impending doom, but turns out to be as inoffensive as 2021 Liverpool's attack; likewise, "Answers" follows a crescendo-esque structure before collapsing without reaching any sort of conclusion, rather ending with percussive crumbs. Still, it has been evident since his career's dawn that Stott is not a banger-playlist producer, always defiantly arguing that the journey is more important than the destination. And while the journey is not his most carefully crafted, it's still a testament to the high level of proficiency the UK producer has always imposed on himself.