Andy Stott – ‘Luxury Problems’: Round 96 – Rob’s choice

andy_stott_-_luxury_problems_cover

We don’t have enough techno.

We have just enough techno.

I don’t know whether this is techno.

We don’t have enough.

I bought this Andy Stott album because I couldn’t hear it anywhere else. I bought this Andy Stott album because I saw the cover art from ‘Passed Me By’, the EP that preceded it, and somehow thought it was related to the first Death Grips album. I didn’t buy either of those, but I did buy this one because I couldn’t hear it anywhere and that really got under my skin.

I waited and waited until I found it on vinyl and I bought it and I didn’t know what it sounded like. Reading techno reviews is really hard if you don’t know a lot about techno and how techno reviews are written. I don’t know if this is techno but I know that the reviews seemed to suggest that I should buy and so did the cover and so I did.

I didn’t know he was from Manchester. I didn’t really know he was a label mate of Demdike Stare. I don’t know what Demdike Stare sound like, and I can’t hear them anywhere either, but I once heard their name pronounced in a surprising way on the Guardian Music podcast, and I came to associate them with dark, subterranean musics that I was able to listen to like Haxan Cloak and Emptyset.

Maybe one day I’ll buy some of their records too, just to hear them. The very thought.

This record is genuinely terrific. It starts with hazy loops and a voice, Andy Stott’s piano teacher apparently, intoning, “Touch… Touch…” and from there it grows. All organic adjectives are appropriate. This is rhythmic music beaten out on skin and deep muscle. It has heft and density and life. It is simple and yet it moves, articulated. It is at once delicate and tough enough to withstand whatever you might throw at it. It’s dancing, to its own bruised logic, whether you are asking or not.

The record it reminds me of more than any other is ‘Maxinquaye’ because at the time, that masterpiece seemed to me to have been thumped out on sheets of leather. This is human music made to affect the calculations of a machine. It pulsates and flutters and writhes and goes on in ways that no machine could. It is resolutely grey and full of touches of breathtaking colour.

I recognise that having to buy records just to hear them is a luxury problem.

Tom listened: My memory may be failing me…but I think this is probably the first time since we’ve been meeting that I have felt compelled to listen to an album again prior to writing my response.

Lately, I have become a little frustrated with my writing in that by the time I come to responding to an album, all I can recall is the feeling the music gave me, rather than the music itself. So that has been what I have tended to write about. Which is no good at all.

Furthermore, how many times does a record make sense the first time around? Having bought Swoon by Prefab Sprout yesterday, I must have played it about three times over already and it’s only just starting to reveal itself, as my mind, or ears (or whatever else it is that sorts this out) has begun to understand the structures and patterns that, at first, seem to be almost random or haphazard in nature. A cursory half-listen over a curry with chatter seldom does the job, as far as I am concerned.

So I have turned to Youtube for help. And it’s a revelation, the album eliciting the same feeling I got on the night yet sounding nothing like how I remember it. For a start, the vocals feature much more prominently than I had previously thought. The album feels much, much more human than my memory would have me believe, much warmer than Haxan Cloak and Emptyset (a fact I did recall correctly…unsurprisingly). It’s minimal but there’s just enough  going on to be entrancing; there are moments of great beauty, moments of ominousness (but never threateningly so), and Luxury Problems actually grooves, in a nod-your-head rather than fill-a-dance-floor kind of a way, through the course of its 50ish minutes. So, to sum up, I had thought this was a great record and it turns out I was right. Hurrah! It is just a different great record to the one I had previously thought it was!

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