We Stay Together isn't a retread of Passed Me By, it's a continuation—but there are signs of life this time. One listen to opener "Submission" should prove it: those billowing chords of yore are back and unharmed, even if they are sounding a little haggard. Where the music on Passed Me By slowly destroyed itself with each passing bar, here it sounds like it's desperately struggling to hold together. On "Posers," the vocal sample pushes the other elements dangerously off-balance as it pans the stereo spectrum.
This is minutely stratified music. It might be lo-fi, but it's not the kind that obscures; Stott's rough textures merely blur the lines between the elements. This dynamic turns a fairly straightforward techno thumper like "Bad Wires" into a heaving mass of gravelly shakers and dust-eaten drums, and the otherwise funky "Cherry Eye" into a swirling watercolour punctured by an unforgiving kickdrum. We get a glimmer of hope with the title track, based around a mercilessly phased sample, but it's unceremoniously stomped out by the hellish closer "Cracked."
I've spent a lot of time this year complaining about the complacency of dub techno, pondering its inevitable death as a viable genre. But maybe these burning doldrums are a good place to be, because the trickery that Andy Stott is performing on the genre's corpse is as morbidly exciting as the foreboding beats he carves out of prehistoric stone.