Published Apr 22, 2016Andy Stott's decision to incorporate the operatic vocals of his piano teacher Alison Skidmore into his 2012 full-length, Luxury Problem, was something of a revelation. The move didn't just provide the Mancunian producer with a new sound and a breakthrough record, but also provided the template that he'd follow for both 2014's Faith in Strangers and now, Too Many Voices: destroy and rebuild.
On Faith in Strangers, that meant starting over with hardware instead of software, incorporating a drum machine into his sound and learning from scratch; here, it means experimenting with presets on a Korg Triton, having Skidmore try on a more R&B-leaning vocal timbre and, most crucially, leaving plenty of space for the compositions to resonate. The result is Stott's warmest, most inviting record to date.
Too Many Voices is a breath of fresh air for anyone who found Faith overwhelmingly claustrophobic. Opener "Waiting for You" is awash in Stott's signature sonic haze, but it's less foreboding than before, and micro-sampled voices provide snippets of melody that adorn the oodles of space here. It ends with a chirping, chiming sound that, while slightly annoying on first listen, feels something like sparkling lights guiding the way thereafter.
String-led first single "Butterflies" is Stott's most accessible track yet — yes, that's a full-fledged vocal melody you hear — but "First Night" gives it a run for its money with its woozy bass part, finger snaps and shuffling groove. The album-closing title track features Oneohtrix Point Never-esque choral parts that provide a thick, comfortable bed for Skidmore's sensuous vocals.
There are points where Stott's more concerned with mood than melody, but it suits the ambient "On My Mind" just fine, especially once heavy, off-kilter handclaps come in to propel it; surrounded by so much sonic space, the glassy bells around the track's mid-point are utterly entrancing.
The album's only true weak point is second single "Selfish," if only because it evokes Stott's industrial-sounding past more than his future. But then, who can blame an artist whose career has been defined by his forward-thinking, boundary-pushing approach for looking back once in a while? (Modern Love)