I once described Andy Stott’s music as ‘sophisticated techno.’ Not my finest moment. Even though I still hate myself for saying it, his brand of electronic music does provoke the use of such pretentious terms. Everything unravels at its own pace, with beats gradually mutating under the moody surface. Where others might layer up to obscene degrees, Stott has a knack for finding beauty in minuscule details. It’s practically ambient music for club-goers. Never the Right Time doesn’t differ much from previous records, except that it’s slightly more ethereal. Think Burial playing at The Roadhouse.
I doubt Never the Right Time will have the same impact as other Stott albums, solely because it’s so similar. I can imagine some listeners being disappointed by the sense of familiarity, though it doesn’t bother me so much. We’ve seen a small wave of UK artists inspired by the likes of Stott and Actress, but not many of them capture the beautifully nocturnal sensation of Never the Right Time. It makes me feel nostalgic for night-life, even though I’m an introvert who refuses to dance. The record is tailor-made for me, basically.
The most memorable moments on Never the Right Time arrive on the tracks with more energy, such as “Repetitive strain” and “Answers”. However, I do find myself strangely enamoured with some of the more understated spots too. Alison Skidmore contributes vocals once again, which certainly lends the music a human quality, edging towards the realms of trip-hop. That said, I don’t always find her voice the most captivating. It works wonderfully on closing track “Hard to tell”, but less so on “The beginning” - not helped by an awkwardly mixed percussion part guiding the track forward.
Despite these inconsistencies, I would still recommend Never the Right Time to most fans of dub and techno. The atmosphere it provides is just so damn alluring, and the manner in which beats organically transform is a selling point in itself. Anima was a good record – in some ways Thom Yorke’s best - but some of the instrumentals sound like cold replicas of what Stott so elegantly and effortlessly achieves here. It’s unlikely to blow any minds, but Never the Right Time is a journey worth taking.
7 out of 10
Never the Right Time sounds like an orchestra was given sheet music written by Aphex Twin. It’s glitchy and fast-paced, but also ornate and elegant, sitting in a kind of uncanny valley between electronic and classical. Weird, in a word, but good weird.
I tend to go in for electronic music on the softer end of the spectrum - where the likes of Kelly Lee Owens and Boards of Canada hang out looking unattainably cool - and Andy Stott definitely fits right in. ‘Nocturnal’ was a recurring word in our chat about the album, and a better descriptor hasn’t come to mind since. “When it hits” and “The beginning” especially hit the spot for me, though most of the tracks have that restless hum of neon signs and moonlight.
What sets Strott’s efforts apart from the the (somewhat) similar artists mentioned above is that the ‘harsher’ elements are fluffed up here - busy but never abrasive. Drum machines have never sounded so natural as they do on “Repetitive strain”. It’s what you’d expect Thom Yorke’s solo material to sound like after smoking a spliff.
The line between intriguing and boring does blur from time to time, but Never the Right Time largely hits upon a bleep bloop dreaminess quite unlike anything else we’ve reviewed on this site. I’ve enjoyed it a fair bit. Weird, but good weird.
7 out of 10
Never The Right Time is a pastiche of nocturnal moods. Modulating between haunting, mournful soundscapes and mechanical, beat-heavy outings, Andy Stott winds his way through 40 minutes of electronica that has me returning for back-to-back listens.
Opening with electric shivers and a doleful guitar line to back Alison Skidmore’s reverberating, breathy vocal, Stott’s statement of intent remains closely aligned to his previous material. However, Skidmore’s heavy involvement throughout this tracklist is a change from the status quo, shaping the robotic, sharp edges of the title track to something reminiscent of Björk material and “The beginning” into a vaporwave-esque affair.
Elsewhere, album highlight “Repetitive Strain” will sound familiar to fans of Stott’s previous output. Sparsely arranged, Stott pairs a frantic melody with a satisfying, thumping kick drum, jumping in and out of a half time two-step. “Answers” will scratch the same itch, with compressed, manic drum patterns contrasting longtail wails that stretch out across the five-minute playtime.
Unfortunately, in sticking within the same arena of sounds, Never The Right Time opens itself up to comparison with Stott’s previous records. His 2014 release, Faith in Strangers, has strikingly similar arrangements in some cuts, and edges out on top of this new album in my book. A contributing factor here is that, while Skidmore’s vocals make for a nice aesthetic, it’s one that begins to feel restrictive by the midpoint of the tracklist.
Familiarity aside, Never The Right Time is a cracker of an album that I’ve enjoyed my time with. Returning fans of Andy Stott will find more of what they love, and newcomers will be introduced to a discography spanning 15 years with more of the same style of cavernous synths and beats. Still, without exploring new ground, it’s an album that falls short of real brilliance.
7 out of 10