Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Andy Stott is a UK-based electronic music producer who has been making music for about 15 years now, and “It Should Be Us” is his most recent release. Up to this point, he has put out a steady stream of albums, EPs and singles that have been consistently interesting and sonically unique. Stott is primarily a techno artist, but it is tough to say that his music is aimed at a dance floor audience. Past projects, like the EP “We Stay Together,” demonstrate his penchant for making rough lo-fi electronic music that tends to do more creeping and plodding than it does manufacturing a dance groove. Compared to the previous EPs, “It Should Be Us” has some commonalities as well as plenty of novel sounds for Stott. It is certainly still mysterious, mechanical and slightly uneasy, but it could well be one of his most accessible, and possibly danceable, projects.
One initial aspect that makes “It Should Be Us” sound different from Stott’s other albums and EPs is precisely the “sound” of the album itself. The noises, synths, textures and percussion are more clean and polished on most tracks than they have been in the past. With a more polished sound, the album has fewer eerie moments, or certainly less at the forefront of the listening experience. Most of the tracks are creepy and cold in subtler ways. The opening track, “Dismantle,” is a good example of a sinister groove that is more compellingly accessible than enigmatic and noisy. The first synth lines are bassy with low frequency, but when the percussion mixes with the high, flickering synths, the song instead takes on a shimmering and entrancing mood.
The second song, “Promises,” is an even more smooth listen than “Dismantle,” with the textures being immediately comfortable, sleek and more squarely upbeat. The different percussion elements flicker and flutter back and forth until about a minute and a half into the song when a pulsing bass drum begins to control the rhythm of the track. At that point, the established sounds begin to slowly oscillate and evolve, changing intonation or effects slightly, as well as welcoming other noises into the mix. In that sense, it is a good example of a song that slowly takes you over, or maybe creeps in.
Another highlight of the album is the seventh track, titled “0L9,” which is definitely the most danceable song, mostly due to its straightforward house beat and structure. The song begins with a cyclical set of percussion sounds that sound like the chugging of a moving train. Like other songs on this album, the theme of the track becomes more nuanced as sounds are added, giving it a new atmosphere. A steady, high-tempo kick drum offset by shifting hi-hat offbeats facilitates the mood shift. The main melody of the song is a loud, low-frequency warbling synth that has an unusual and mysterious quality. The melodies sound uncannily organic, yet so unnatural which is such a central idea of Stott’s projects. This feels right where the project as a whole lies, right between the organic and the mechanical. The album is at its best when it can move between these two ideas in the most engrossing and mesmerizing ways.