Andy Stott: Unknown Exception
Modern Love

For those who missed out on Andy Stott's vinyl-only releases comes the next best thing: Unknown Exception: Selected Tracks Vol. 1 (2004-2008). Though the CD can't match Modern Love's thick slabs for capturing Stott's trademark massive bass lines, it does deliver seventy-three minutes of his finely-crafted material in one convenient package. The dozen tracks also expose the listener to Stott's evolution with the material variously drawing more from one genre at one moment and a different one the next. Most generally, one might hear Stott as an inspired amalgamation of multiple styles: from techno, we get minimal beats; from dubstep, cavernous bass lines; and from dub, instrument-related detail and production treatments that lend the material a deep, even panoramic feel. Listen closely and traces of Detroit techno, Chicago house, and Chain-Reaction “heroin” house invariably surface too.

“Fear of Heights” finds Stott in quasi-minimal mode, with the cut stripped to a dubby bass prod, skeletal hi-hat and kick drum elements, staccato chords echoing into the distance, and a descending melodica-like theme. “Handle With Care” exploits atmospheric dub production effects to the maximum, with the tiniest of percussive sounds (hi-hats, snares) seemingly ricocheting off of the studio walls, while a sub-bass line surreptitiously threads a jaunty path through the underground. “Credit” shows off Stott's muscular side with a colossal techno groove and hyperactive percussive array steamrolling over a bed of silken washes. Here and elsewhere, a main theme rises to the surface of the broil every now and then to give the track melodic heft but, in this case at least, the focal point is the steamy pulse that pounds for a mesmerizing seven minutes. Close your eyes and Stott's sublime dub-techno workout “Massacre”—especially in stripped-down mode—sounds uncannily similar to Monolake's Hong Kong, with both releases featuring no shortage of classic metallic chords clanging over propulsive dub bass lines and infectiously percolating pulses. With its quietly flickering house groove and warm melodic accents, “Long Drive” suggests a tranquil night cruise more than a frenzied race down the Autobahn—at least, that is, until the skipping beats jack up the intensity during the cut's second half. “See In Me” opens at a crawl, like a “heroin” house track nodding off in a drug-induced stupor, before picking itself up and lurching on its way; if the tune's lugubrious vibe feels excessive, at least it offers contrast to the collection's otherwise uptempo character. Unknown Exception also includes jacking, dizzying techno stormers such as “Hostile” (apparently the vinyl pressing sold out in a day) and “Fine Metallic Dollar,” and, interestingly, the album closes with Stott's first release, the irrepressibly funky “Replace,” which shows that Stott had things royally sorted out from the outset. As stated, for those without the vinyl releases in their collections and for Modern Love devotees in general, the collection could easily be deemed essential.

October 2008