A baleful grumble, a deep sound somewhere in the unknown. Like a foghorn making its way through a sea of darkness. It warns the listener of exactly that darkness but also somehow hypnotically catches the attention and sucks you deeper into the mystical fog. Like a sinister call of an ancient siren. Time Away, the stunning six-and-a-half-minute long opener of Faith In Strangers, is the most suitable way of opening the latest longplayer by Manchester-based producer ANDY STOTT. With a fine pair of headphones on, in a darkened room this track really unfolds a captivating magic. It’s an invitation to the microcosm of STOTT‘s sound. Ever since his 2006 debut Merciless the acclaimed artist delivers satisfying material on a regular basis via the label Modern Love. Faith In Strangers marks the latest step in the ongoing natural evolution of his sound.
While his previous albums already moved further and further away from the original concept of techno and club music ANDY STOTT‘s fourth longplayer seems to play even more with the expectations of the listener. ‘The album is a reflection of new influences and conversations with my mates from the last two years’ explains the musician his latest release. It’s an exciting journey into the spheres of STOTT‘s passionate love for darkness. NOHTING BUT HOPE AND PASSION got the chance to ask the talented Englishmen a few questions on his new longplayer, its haunting nature and the ambitions behind it.
To me it feels like this record gets even further away from the schemes of techno and evolves into a more unique direction. Was there a certain approach for the album?
My tastes have changed in that period and also my production techniques and listening to friends opinions on music too. Hearing what they are currently listening to played a part in forming these tracks. One really important part of the process was getting together with my friends who also happen to be involved with the Modern Love label; for example, SHLOM whose label it actually is, Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty from DEMDIKE STARE, and Gary Howell who releases as G.H. We get together as often as we can and we all play each other music. It’s great because whether you like the tracks or not you get to hear the reasons why others like particular tracks and elements, and that in itself can be very inspiring, it’s something that will stick in your mind and subconsciously come out in tracks that are written after.
Besides the dark elements and the familiar field recordings I also sense more distortion and noise within the sound of ‘Faith In Strangers.’ What fascinates you about that aspect?
I was inspired to use more distortion by a few tunes I had heard earlier in the year and the use of the distortion was done in such an unusual way. I wanted to learn how this was done and through trying to figure this out I got a bit hooked on working with this particular element, and for this album it worked perfectly I think.
Regarding the title of the record… Why should we even bother to have faith in strangers at all?
Well, for me personally, I’m in a different country most weekends and meeting people for the first time and these people have organised my stay and experience (to an extent) in this new place, so I think it’s very important for me to have this faith in strangers, but there are so many scenarios where I think this title is still fitting.
The title Faith In Strangers can be also seen as a metaphor for the record’s musical content. You have to trust ANDY STOTT to follow him onto his path. After the quite cinematic opener the bittersweet Violence really helps the record to come alive. A pumping beat teams up with distorting sounds as long-time friend and vocal collaborator Alison Skidmore unfolds her siren-like voice over this wild scenario. ‘She is great to work with’, rhapsodizes Mancunian. He continues: ‘I had a clearer idea this time around of what I wanted to do with her voice, so there was a lot more direction from me.’ Skidmore’s vocals became an anchor for the musical environment that the producer builds around her. The eight minute long On Oath is a perfect example for this. It pretty much starts with Skidmore’s acappella before all the electronics carefully join her bit for bit. In a hectic piece like Science And Industry here voice remains the element of calm; almost as if she’s guiding the listener.
Tell us a bit about working with Alison again this time.
I would get inspired by a vocal track that I would hear and then try to describe the style to her on the phone. Two days later there would be a file in my in box with her new vocals, and like I mention before, about hearing one thing in the studio and being able to hear what needed to go around it, this happened nearly every time when Alison would send me some new vocals.
At which stage of the production of a track do you know when vocals should be included or not?
I always treated and worked with the vocals first and built the track around them later, in the later stages I would edit the vocals to make verses etc. I think there might have been one occasion where I have been working on an instrumental and I just dropped Alison over the top of it and with a bit of work it came together really nicely.
Do you need to get yourself in a specific mood to work on these quite dark tunes? For instance, do you prefer working at night? Or is it like you flip a switch and instantly switch into a mood where you just produce?
I don’t premeditate what I’m going to do in the studio, all it will take is to get a certain individual sound and I will instantly hear the basis of a track, or it could be a certain sequence of chords, a drum loop, anything really. As soon as I make something that I’m into I’ll roll with that and build the track around it.
Especially in Manchester‘s pop history a lot of the music was dominated by a certain darkness and desperation. Although the times have obviously changed – what influence got your home town on your music?
I don’t think my surroundings have any impact on what I do, I honestly think I could live anywhere and be writing the same music, it’s the music and what it sparks that’s influential in the end and I don’t think that any music from Manchester has influenced any particular bit of this record.
If you desperately want to you can definitely a few industrial roots of Manchester in the sound of STOTT. No Surrender, for example, grabs the listener with pumping and distorted beats that create an almost mechanical feeling. In an APHEX TWIN-like manner Damage spins its elements around like in a furious tornado. ‘It’s all about ‘there and then’,’ explains the producer his philosophy. Just like his fellow countrymen BURIAL or HOLY OTHER the composer lets his music into the limelight and not himself.
I like the mystery in artists and identity don’t get me wrong, but for me personally it’s only about the music. I keep myself to myself personally but don’t mind being exposed when it comes to releasing music.
Still, ANDY STOTT prefers to talk through via his sound. Or maybe even via Alison Skidmore who does another great performance in the album’s title-track. The floating Missing leaves the listener in an almost optimistic and hopeful state despite being hopelessly sinister. So what about the element of hope within this dark cosmos? STOTT tells us he hopes that the people who are listening to his songs ‘get the same feeling from it at the same points.’ And what about passion? ‘It is the drive to keep pushing forward,’ the producer explains. ‘It’s the constant inspiration from friends, music, opinions, and equipment and the drive to keep listening to music and to just take it all in.’
And what does the future hold up for ANDY STOTT? He confesses to sometimes daydream about scoring a movie or something in that direction. ‘I think it would be very interesting to write a piece of music specifically for a film or even a scene,’ he tells us. ‘Music can create amazing tension in films and that is something that really interests me.’ The future looks indeed quite bright for ANDY STOTT and his clear vision. You just have to walk through a dark path to acknowledge this.
[one_half last=”yes”]ANDY STOTT
Faith In Strangers
Label: Modern Love
01. Time Away
03. On Oath
04. Science & Industry
05. No Surrender
06. How It Was
08. Faith in Strangers