Andy Stott has done a lot of music making, only I haven't really been listening. Experimenting with house, techno and dubstep for almost ten years it was only last year, with his album Passed Me By, that I became familiar with him. And thus, I suppose, stopped letting him pass me by (sorry, I felt I had to otherwise the un-used pun would just hang there for the whole review... Maybe my whole life).
At that point Stott was on his way to critical acclaim having found his own space within the genres he had previously experimented with. Elements of dubstep and techno blended together to make the deep, thick treacle sound of dub techno. As is the vogue Stott went s l o w and his music developed a sense of foreboding weight it previously lacked. "In snatches compelling but ultimately difficult to get a handle on" - that is how I would have described Passed Me By.
Seemingly unable to slow his rate of output to anywhere near the same level as his music Stott is already back with a follow up (though 2012 still sees half as many Andy Stott albums as 2011 had). On the magnificently titled Luxury Problems (it can be read at least three ways - impressive for two words) Stott collaborates with opera-trained vocalist Alison Skidmore and it is quickly apparent we have a very different sound again.
Skidmore's vocals are used like any other instrument on this record, clipped and looped and layered to create both melodies and rhythms. There is a clear line from the skittering beats and angelic vocals of Burial's Untrue to this record but it is also clear Stott is inspired by much more than one genre, let alone album - visit the dark, looping bass of the title track with it's sudden snatches of funk, for example.
Luxury Problems is a starkly cold album, marked by the vocalist's crystalline vocals. It's deep, dark and claustrophobic - head music for losing yourself to. But by working with Alison Skidmore, Stott has given his music a centre around which it spins - a point of reference and a point of relief. Passed Me By was an album to admire more than one to love, but here Stott grows and his music becomes more essential as a result.
It's this change that really makes Luxury Problems. The album ends on a Stott's version of a ballad - the vocals layered upon a slow, warm series of echo-heavy, deep bass notes. It isn't long, but it provides just the closure Luxury Problems needs and the sense of progression his other work lacked. As the key shifts down on 'Leaving' it sounds like a spinning top slowing, in danger of toppling...