** 2023 Pressing, deluxe gatefold violet vinyl 2LP ** Following on from a pair of Extended Players released in 2011 ("Passed Me By" / "We Stay Together") Andy Stott returns to Modern Love with 'Luxury Problems', an 8 track album of new material recorded over the last 12 months.
Five of the tracks on the album feature Alison Skidmore, Andy's onetime Piano teacher whom he hadnt seen since he was a teenager back in 1996. There was no grand gesture in mind, it just sort of happened - but after almost a year of studio work the result is really quite unlike anything you'll have heard from him before. 'Numb' opens the album with Alison's voice; layered and looped but essentially left bare and exposed, tumbling into a dense shuffle, sort of somewhere between Theo Parrish and Sade, but more fucked.
'Lost and Found' follows and deploys a growling rave bassline, the beat assembling itself around a squashed Linndrum like a submerged Prince/Cameo production, haunted and impenetrable, but full of funk. 'Sleepless' started life as a drum edit that sooner or later succumbed to Stott's intense rhythmic shifts. It's a sound that's been imitated countless times since the release of 'Passed Me By', here re-tooled and re-built for its next phase. 'Hatch The Plan' ends the first half of the album with some heavily treated location recordings and a low end grind that probably doesnt quite prepare you for the vocal arrangements that follow - it's just a beautifuly inverted pop song.
The second half opens with 'Expecting', the most recognisably 'Stott' moment on the album: a wrecked, deliriously knocked 4/4 shuffle deployed at halfspeed; those heavy kickdrums sucking in everything around them. 'Luxury Problems' is next and offers up the album's most quietly euphoric and open 5 minutes; conventional arrangements and drumloops disrupted by sharp percussive loops that mess with what you know: it's straight and beautiful and unbalanced and damaged, somehow all at once.
"Up the box" goes somewhere else entirely, an extended intro that seems to build continuously for 3 minutes before breaking off into a slowed-down Amen edit, creating a kind of narcotic Jungle variant that fragments everything and ends just at the point you think it's going to go off, before "Leaving" finishes the album with an almost unbareably beautiful arrangement of voice and synth and a final key-change that takes you from joyful to forlorn in an instant.