Sure, there are beats on Andy Stott’s new album, Faith in Strangers. Heck, there are shimmering moments when you might even be tempted to call Stott’s work dub step(ish). (Or trip-hopish. Or Jungleish.) But don’t mistake drop-heavy for dance-inducing. The Manchester-based producer’s fourth effort is all about quiet tension, its nine songs often hanging together as much by mood as structure. No wonder he’s flown under the radar of all but the most dedicated of electronic fans for the better part of a decade. Stott’s is a world that creeps and crawls, united by a sense of dread that can take several spins to fully unpack.
With their razor-sharp curtains of noise cut only by the murmurings of opera singer/collaborator Alison Skidmore, singles such as “Violence” and the titular “Faith in Strangers” split the difference between ethereal and haunted. Skidmore’s reverb-wrapped soprano only serves to highlight Faith in Strangers’ underlying anxiety, angelically providing hints of melody as each of Stott’s beats land with the intensity of whatever monster it is that’s hiding under your bed. (Surprise! It’s one of Manchester’s roving post-punk bassists.)
But the album isn’t all an exercise in loud, louder, loudest. Stott often steps away from noise symphony, coaxing a stark beauty out of his ones and zeroes in the process. Euphonium-featuring album opener “Time Away” in particular plays like a woozy, ambient cloud cover, its beat-free soundscape stretching out towards the horizon before the onslaught of “Violence” begins. Interestingly enough, it’s the album highlight (and one might argue, the most accessible of tracks). “Science and Industry” bridges the gaps between Stott’s quiet and harsh sides. Playing like the ghost of pop past, the track couples a skittering samba beat with a slow-burning drone. Once again, Stott expresses his lofty ambitions through gutsy juxtaposition. Who needs genres, buzzwords or descriptions that fit into 140 characters or less? Faith in Strangers is long-form listening at its finest.