Let’s be honest here, electronic music when within the dance classification is empty. Go beyond the technicality and you won’t find much depth, which is perfectly fine. You don’t listen to house and dubstep as anything more than something to get f*cked to – an aural augmentation to whatever it is you’re already taking. But if the trip you’re looking for is more peyote-induced spirit walk that will reveal your inner self than fleeting fun, then Luxury Problems is the soundtrack you’re looking for.
Having dabbled with all manners of dance – dubstep, juke, house – Andy Stott’s latest effort is unapologetically atmospheric and heavy. It’s not like this is his first time attempting to traipse outside of proper dance music, he had eschewed quicker tempos in favour of oppressive dub techno beats before with previous release Passed Me By. But here, he’s gone deeper into the dark heart of industrial electronic – low bass haunting the minimalistic 4/4 beat of the drums while the howl of industrial rust consumes everything, all Silent Hill-scary (listen to ‘Expecting’).
In an Oedipal bid to slay his dance upbringing proper, Andy employed his former piano teacher Alison Skidmore to sing over most of the tracks. The choice to forego vocal samples for original recorded ones makes for a more human album while maintaining its industrial ghost. Title track ‘Luxury Problems’ could be Andy at his most conventional, but just when you’re about to acclimatise to Alison’s operatically-trained vocals, a halfcorked and unfinished beat seemingly out of nowhere infiltrates your eardrums. It’s startling and almost nonsensical, like Lynchian randomness in the midst of formal form.
Elsewhere, like the album’s coda ‘Leaving’, Andy and Alison unleash what sounds like a f*cked up Enya in an underground club. Alison sounds as euphoric in the beginning as she is forlorn later on, while the beat fluctuates accordingly, going from embracement to menace. Then on ‘Lost and Found’ she’s straight up haunting you over odd rave bassline.
It’s difficult to imagine the album without her voice on it. Techno is such a cold genre, even colder when transmogrified by Andy’s murkier affectation. We would imagine Luxury Problems would be as oppressive, just much less human. Tracks like opening number ‘Numb’, without Alison’s spectral presence, is an exciting exercise in sound. With her voice, it’s more nuanced and substantial.
A lot of reviewers have credited Alison for making the album more than what it is, forgetting that Andy uses her like she were part of his arsenal of sounds. This is not a full-on collaborative album after all, in a way, she is really his living vocal sample acting as an antithesis to his cold beats. What Andy has done here is excise some of the muscularity and calculated precision of techno and inject it with ethereal beauty, creating something else in the process. A wonderful, foreboding, and intense industrial wreck.
LISTEN TO: ‘Expecting’, ‘Leaving’, ‘Lost and Found’, ‘Numb’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: flica, Actress, Demdike Stare
2. Lost and Found
4. Hatch the Plan
6. Luxury Problems
7. Up the Box