Thursday, November 20, 2014

Release of the Day: Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers

Faith in Strangers itself carries a story-like progression, beginning with an instrumental dark ambient track before spiraling through corridors of whispered soulful musings, stirring treble clef notes, skeletal percussion, and a profoundly moving atmosphere. The audial equivalent of a deserted town. You can see the structures and sometimes in the corner of your eye, you may see a movement and mistake it for a human being, though, to be sure, it is only the wind playing tricks on you. That's not to say that this is an inorganic or upright album: often, in the background of a pleasant song, Andy Stott will inject elements of industrial noise, such as the grating elements in the background of "Violence."

It's like in Freud's essay on the Uncanny, where he talks about how in German, Unheimlich, roughly translated to English as "un-home-like," which becomes uncanny. One of the examples he brings up is that every city holds a bit of the uncanny. A city is familiar if one knows what a city is like, and yet on every corner, the visitor may be surprised. The small elements of the city are the mysterious elements, though from the view of a plane or a jet, the city is knowable, as it includes the things all cities do: landmarks, skyscrapers, roads, buses. When one becomes an inhabitant of the city, it only resembles what is familiar rather than being familiar - one gets lost or forgets his or her directions and must consult an expert or a GPS. Faith in Strangers nails this feeling of unrest born aloft on familiar electronic production.

That's where the album gets its strength because it ultimately is a pleasant listen, but I can't escape a palpable feeling of the deeply strange and perhaps sublime even as I look at the album's artcover, juxtaposing a great stone visage not unlike the ones of Easter Island with a grainy, faded backdrop of a city. I'm certain that Mr. Stott knows he's tapping into something simultaneously primal and refind, which essentially is what makes the best dance music so good. A measured drop or bass blast in a song structure signals the primal, even sexual dance - want proof? Just spend twenty minutes at a mainstream electronica show. Andy Stott uses this formula of anticipated climax throughout his music, though he also weaves in his mastery of subdued poignancy to make the music extra tense, which is where he excels in areas in which
other makers of electronic music may fail.

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