Hugged By a Taser
Andy Stott doesn’t like to stand still. With a discography that jumps from corner to corner of the electronic music map, it’s tough to pin a label on his work — especially his latest solo effort, Faith in Strangers. It flutters through tinges of ambient meditative composition, cross-pollinates with grimy dub, and gets chopped to bits by an assembly line of malfunctioning electronic filters. The result is an album that is purposefully destructive, embraces its own decay, and is one of the more interesting new works of the year.
“Time Away” opens the record quietly, but it’s not a silence of serenity. It’s ominously silent, like still water stretching out to the horizon. Deep, repetitive horns roll in through a thick fog, mingling with low strings and higher howls in a kind of ambient harmony that creeps away as soberly as it entered. Stott follows this minimalist intro with hints of melody and vocals in “Violence,” but every element of the song is so warped and distorted that it sounds cold and alien, even when a robust dub beat breaks the track open halfway through its six and a half minute run time. The record continues on in a fashion that is often ghostly, at times abrasive, and never rushed.
From the hushed murmurs and haunting chants of “On Oath,” to the harshly reverberating anti-melody and chaotic rhythm of “No Surrender,” to the eerily slow pulse of “Missing,” Faith in Strangers is consistently weird and off-putting. And this, oddly enough, is exactly what makes it such a good listen. Its unique voice — raw and unfriendly, yet strangely addictive — helps it stand out in the sea of endlessly weird avant-garde electronic music.
Faith in Strangers is a beautiful record, but its beauty does not lie in perfect melodic progression, or sublime harmony, or poignant lyrical content — rather, its draw comes from an intentional inversion of such elements. It is warped, decayed, and on the verge of collapse. It’s been ripped to pieces and hangs on by a thread. Crowd pleaser? Not by a long shot. An interestingly dark and innovative record? Oh, most definitely so.