Deconstructed Dance Music / Modern Love / November 15, 2019 – Reviewed by Jon Lindblom
In hindsight, I have come to realise that the reason why I found Andy Stott’s 2011 EP Passed Me By such a compelling piece is because it was the first time I heard something that may be referred to as ‘deconstructed dance music’. The difference between that EP and Stott’s 2006 LP Merciless is indeed a good example of the shift from established dance music to its deconstructed relative: whereas the former is a pretty good but at its core conventional techno album, the latter compellingly warps the tempos, textures and sometimes rhythms of techno into a kind of slowed-down, mutant sonic offspring. It is an example of the formal plasticity that I have ascribed to deconstructed dance music – somewhat like Burial meeting GAS and Basic Channel, but in the form of a compellingly distinct sonic profile organised around foggy textures, crawling beats, fragmented voices, rumbling base and occasionally warped rhythms steeped in melancholy and dread.
For me, Passed Me By is still Stott’s by far best record, and it introduced a sound that he since then has explored further on a number of subsequent releases that always have had plenty of interesting moments, but as a whole have been a bit too inconsistent to match Passed Me By. I was also never that excited about Stott’s collaborations with the vocalist Alison Skidmore on his more recent albums – for even though she certainly is a great singer, I always thought that it took the music in a more conventional direction and away from the tempo, rhythm and texture-based experiments that first got me into Stott’s compelling take on modern club music and that has become key to deconstructed dance music in general since the release of Passed Me By. Additionally – while certainly initially fascinating – the singularity of Stott’s slowed-down rhythms has since then been surpassed by the more fast-paced rhythmic complexity of experimental club musicians like W00DY and his fellow travellers Demdike Stare (once they altered their sound from their initial ambient occultism to their more recent deconstructed club rhythms), which indeed has made Stott’s thumping techno-beats feel somewhat rigid in comparison (yet, in that regard, his 2014 collaboration with Demdike Stares’ Miles Whitaker – the great LP Drop the Vowels – is an interesting showing of him working with faster rhythms with a less rigid character).
Stott’s recent double-EP It Should Be Us is thus more up my alley – as it moves back to the mutant techno without vocals from Passed Me By and its follow-up EP We Stay Together (also 2011). Indeed, Stott’s label Modern Love has even referred to It Should Be Us as a follow-up to the two EPs from 2011, with an accompanying full-length album to be released sometime next year. It is a great release overall – in fact, probably my favourite by Stott so far, after Passed Me By – even though it still somewhat suffers from the same tempo and rhythmic restraints as those I identified above.
It is the opening and final tracks that are the most interesting to me. The first track ‘Dismantle’ and the final track ‘Versi’ consist of icy synths and fragmented vocals, combined with warped and shadowy textures organised around slow and heavy beats. It is obviously familiar territory for Stott, but as good as anything else he has made of that kind. Meanwhile, the track ‘OL9’ is a rhythmically straightforward piece that nevertheless stands out because of the distinctively hypnotic loop that makes an entrance a few minutes in, and once again showcases Stott’s talent for creating wonderfully dizzying sonic textures. Although the most formally adventurous tracks are ‘Collapse’ and ‘Ballroom’. The former is probably my favourite on the EPs, because of its fascinating rhythmic complexity, whereas the latter is a skeletal piece that successfully fuses similarly complex rhythms with a couple of sped up vocal samples (a bit like on the track ‘Selfish’ from Too Many Voices, which is one of Stott’s overall best in my opinion). It is really at moments like these when Stott’s music is at its very best.
In contrast, the rest of the tracks do not quite manage to reach the same level as these – but are certainly still good enough to make this another solid release by Stott. Indeed, one of his best so far – which feels promising in preparation for the upcoming full-length album next year.