‘Merciless’ sits on the bleeding edge of a contradiction, and does it calmly – with the serenity of a scalpel. The paradox at hand is that at a time in techno where length, modulation and difference/repetition are in the ascendant, Andy Stott has redefined techno with an album that appears to violate its contemporary compositional principle: a near-perfect techno LP that moves faster than ghosts.
It’s a trick the young Brit must have learned sharing a studio space (and an electrobrain, by the sounds of it) with Modern Love’s other main man Claro Intelecto. In fact, ‘Merciless’ is the direct progeny of Claro’s sound world, sunk in shadows and drawing strength from the exquisite beauty of cold sounds and the deadscapes they evoke.
But where Claro’s tracks were always strongest for their atmospheres and melodies, Stott has added space in the space in the middle and elegantly crafted, quick shifting structures to the bottom end, creating compositions that swiftly transform neo-Detroit tech-house into a delicate piano elegy, evaporating sub rattles and Drexciyan acid lines into brief moments of sweet light. The album is a forty-two minute lesson in the subtle craft of sonic shapeshifting.
‘Florence’ begins with Lawrence-like pads as the song arranges itself around strings propelled by a very thick, wide kick. ‘Edyocat’, the next in sequence, is classic echo chamber deep techno a la Gez Varley’s wonderful G Man works or even Claro’s recent ‘Warehouse Sessions’ material, then ‘Choke’ comes clean with a dubstep track that doesn’t grime so much as gleam. ‘Merciless’ is placed in the middle as a breather between the intensities, but it’s a brief one, as ‘Hi-Rise’ slams the album hat-first into classic techno mode. ‘Hertzog’ is the track where Stott appears to find his own sound: the big bad bug in his bassbin sitting in contrast to ghostly synths which play over the top like northern lights. ‘Boutique’ brightens the mood with a housier number that’s even a bit funkier, but it devolves into a Detroit-cribbing outro with lashings of UR’s jazzier leanings or some of Maurice Fulton’s recent Syclops work, minus the fruitiness. ‘Blocked’, the penultimate track, sounds somewhere between moments of Kode 9’s recent album mating with Substance’s tech-dubstep remixes for Monolake. The closer, Stott’s reworking of Claro’s nascent classic ‘Peace of Mind’, has been the most buzzed over track surrounding the release of this long player, but to these ears, it’s the only let down on the album, if only because of the difficulty of withstanding comparison to the original.
There’s no real sonic innovation here, if that’s a caveat. Stott has conjured the year’s most accomplished, beautifully produced and fully developed techno album in a way that effortlessly anthologises its influences – perhaps that’s a kind of inventiveness unto itself. It’s certainly a landmark release, and should emerge as a modern classic.
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Tracklist: Andy Stott - Merciless1 Florence
6 Come To Me
10 Peace of Mind
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