The UK’s resident dub techno necromancer Andy Stott kept a pretty clip of EP releases coming on a semi-yearly basis between 2005 and 2008, transitioning to a series of shorter 12-inch singles thereafter, only to return with two of his best releases to date last year. The first of these, Passed Me By, was as beautifully dark as electronic music got, casting a grisly pall over what, presumably, is meant to be dance music. But while the term “trance” certainly applies to the music, it’s more in the demonic possession sense of the word, rather than that of blissfully trailing off to happy hardcore while under the influence of uppers, downers, blue bombers, green goofers and whatever’s left in the medicine cabinet. Needless to say, it didn’t so much breathe new life into a genre as reanimate its flesh.
It turns out, however, that We Stay Together, released just a few months following Passed Me By, is actually even darker and creepier than that EP. Sometimes it’s only by minor degrees, and sometimes it’s measured by charred, burning landscapes, but either way, the Manchester producer has gone far more sinister than one might have foreseen. As a result of this descent into all things weird and menacing, Stott has truly outdone himself in making a glorious work of gross and engrossing beauty. One might find “hauntology” a tempting word to apply here, and being easy and trendy, it’s probably inevitable. A silly term though it may be, there’s no doubt that slowly pulsing, desiccated lurches like “Cherry Eye” most certainly haunt.
Still, a haunting can be utterly soothing at times, as on the hypnotic, “Submission,” a track jarring in its tone, but completely gorgeous in aesthetic. But the nightmares become a little more palpable in “Posers,” which quickens its pace and mangles its tonality, to the point where squeaking, squonking samples sound like air raid sirens after an unfortunate run-in with some space junk. But you certainly can dance to it — and why not, the world’s apparently crumbling anyway. Most disturbing of all, however, is “Cracked,” where metallic shrieks interrupt a shuffling beat, and evoke a discotheque in which the dapper bartender persuades customers into a murderous rampage and patrons share the elevator with tidal waves of blood. Certainly, this is one of the more menacing dance EPs to come along in some time, and if it’s unearthing some pretty ghastly zombies, at least they’re feasting on some Mensa-grade grey matter. That may not be the strongest selling point to the squeamish, though if it’s any consolation, this is one of the most stylish nightmares one will ever endure.
Stream: Andy Stott – We Stay Together
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.