Featured Image Courtesy of the Artist
Andy Stott‘s latest, Too Many Voices, could be the sonic story of a slow, solitary drive through quiet urban neighborhoods in the twilight hours. Voices‘ deep bass frequencies rattle the vehicle, the snares cracking from the speakers like bones breaking. These experimental dub techno tracks evoke an approaching apocalypse, but a human one, an emotional mushroom cloud masquerading as lounge music. This is bare, sparse stuff, a European aesthetic that takes risks by challenging the listener to find the threads amongst its minimal orchestration.
Aside from vocal loops, the percussion is the main attraction on most of the record. This doesn’t mean it’s a dance album. This is music to be listened to while crashed out on a pile of pillows with candlelight flickering across the walls. Start this record at four in the morning and play it until daylight peeks out on the horizon.
There are vocals on every track, but there aren’t “too many” as the album title suggests. The vocals function as suggestions, existing as fragments, wisps. The album opens with “Waiting for You,” a freeform vocal processing exercise, beginning already in progress, like the opening track of David Bowie’s Low. Though there are vocals, there is seldom else, laying the groundwork for the kinds of ghostly stuff that follows throughout the next hour. Listen to “New Romantic,” where the lyrics function less as actual words and more as a texture shaping the retro percussion among the glistening synth bells, or take “First Night,” where a growling synth bass competes against spare synth claps and a chopped vocalist. Tracks like “Selfish” find the vocals almost absent, as if the album is self-editing itself. Machine-gun snares assault the vocal loops in an effort to eschew the voices it finds itself saddled with. The percussion is the most unforgiving toward its vocal targets in tracks like these, but strangely, the effect to the listener is never overwhelming. The eponymous last track functions as a kind of finale, calling back to the title track where the percussion is also absent. Here, a chorus of vocal textures provides a sonic bed atop which additional vocals – actual lyrics – are layered. The sound is fuller but not congested, relegated to its dark, minimal recess.
This is creepy electro – not quite witch house, but general darktronics, if you will. Stott’s work would be perfect vocal fodder for The Chromatics; bedmates of Young Echo and HTRK‘s sensibilities; a more accessible, less antagonistic Kanding Ray; a scanter, lighter version of Denmark’s Lulu Rouge.
Though Stott hails from England, the Danes’ extremely considered sense of visual and aural design is at work on Voices. It’s no coincidence that both Rouge’s and Stott’s album covers are rendered in grayscale. The Voices album cover, depicting the simple beauty of four ballerinas as they ambulate in precise unity, is a perfect thesis for Voices‘ nine-track journey. These measured movements provide the tension of Too Many Voices, a record largely devoid of many actual vocalists. This choice is what makes the album creep up on the listener like chill air from an open window. Find your favorite dark corner and listen.