Like a new type of reductionism, Andy Stott’s music is a complex system that is almost entirely the sum of its more elementary musical parts. “Almost”, we say, because the organic quid completing this abstract circle is the transient art of the Mancunian producer, an array of influences and ideas that can be seen floating in the warp and weft of the digital ether. The distance between genres, that space equally inhabited by innovators and copycats, is the realm in which Stott thrives, being careful not to trespass the imaginary line between techno and futurism, glitch and minimalism, convenience and opportunity.
Too Many Voices is the natural evolution of its predecessor, that Faith in Strangers which two years ago saw Stott toy with abrasiveness and soothing vibrations like never before. Just like its forebear, this new release delves in the extremes. The obscure, deep, low, violent calm in “Over”, and the ethereal, atmospheric pace in “Butterflies”; the bumbling vocals on “First Night” and the overall, spatial sound palette make Too Many Voices an apology of rhythm in all its suffuse purity.
The warm, discrete presence of opera singer Alison Skidmore (Stott’s childhood piano teacher) adds a more organic feel to the mix, and the end result is so fitting that one can’t help but wonder whether it is her the songs are built around. Her delicate yet colourful tone slips inside the texture of the harmonies not to be recognized anymore, stripping the vocals of their content (“Selfish”) while following the pattern provided by the percussive line.
The ferment, the angst that is typical of Stott’s releases continues to thrive on Too Many Voices where, to make things slightly more complicated, patches of comfort are introduced here and there with the sole purpose of creating an imbalance that makes the darker elements stand out and shine in all their misty glare. But it is rhythm that prevails over everything else. In “First Night”, for instance, the vocals appear to struggle to keep up with the unpredictable pace of the cadence. This feeling of uncertainty contributes to making the music vulnerable (like on the already mentioned “Butterflies”) but in doing so, Stott manages to keep the listener engaged and alert, as if the music could stop, decay, vanish or mutate from one moment to the next.
Too Many Voices is everything but a claustrophobic piece of sonic art. On the contrary, this is Stott at his best, a composer whose futuristic music is well rooted in today’s world, one that is badly connected to material reality, without a locus, with an idea of time that is flexible, adaptable. If we’ll ever need a soundtrack to our virtual alter life, this would be the perfect choice. A complex system is the sum of its parts. And something else. A lot of the former, but more of the latter.