UK producer and Other Music favorite Andy Stott turned heads last year with two stunning albums of dark, brutal, sluggish beatscapes that emphasized texture and pure bass weight, creating tracks that enveloped the listener like a mudslide avalanche. He follows up Passed Me By
and We Stay Together
with the brand new Luxury Problems
, which finds Stott taking the sound mapped on those two releases, and quite literally fleshing it out by adding the warmth and sensuality of the human voice to his palette. He is joined on many of these tracks by singer Alison Skidmore, who has been mentioned by Stott in interviews as being the woman who taught him how to play the piano. She sent him various a capellas, and from those, Stott created the sound environments you hear on the album. It's a stunning collaboration, with Stott cutting her syllables into glottal rhythmic fragments, looping her breaths and sighs into wordlessly erotic pillow talk, and then letting her lyrics spiral upward in hypnotic mantras that hint at a blend of R&B and opera, as if Aaliyah and Maria Callas joined bodies to enact the works of Anaïs Nin.
Skidmore's voice is anchored by some brilliant textures by Stott, where he builds long beatless passages of ambience into tense atmospheres that provide counterpoint to the spacious, relaxed tenor of her vocals. Things build until he finally lets loose some of his most thick, heavy, thumping rhythms and deft touches of delay and cavernous reverb. It's worth noting, though, that Skidmore's presence isn't the sole factor that pushes this forward -- Stott's attention to detail is more brilliant than ever, with lots of other vocal textures wafting in and out of these tracks from other sources, and a diversity in his rhythmic arsenal that flirts with a bit of jungle/hardcore break science, and even a bit of funk on the title cut, which is arguably his finest track to date. Luxury Problems
is quite simply one of the year's finest and most eagerly anticipated releases; while some listeners may not enjoy the addition of vocals to the mix, I personally find it to be a big step forward, adding a depth and maturity to his music that proves he has the skill to work in more pop-friendly structures. If you don't believe me, do a Google search for the recent Vogue Italia
video that finds model Kate Upton writhing around in latex to the sounds of Stott's recent productions -- the man is one of the few working today who can deftly balance both brute force with blatant sensuality without it coming off as forced or contrived. This gets my absolute highest recommendation, folks.
-Mikey IQ Jones (November 9, 2012)
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