It’s May 21st, 2011, 6:35pm as I’m writing this. The supposed Rapture came and went and you said, “What a bunch of malarkey! Glad that’s over. I’m going to go back to the hotel pool and relax.” You enter the elevator, you’re the only one on the ride and the doors close. You press G, which stands for “Ground Floor” where the gym, pool and gift shop are located. Yet instead of simply highlighting G, all the buttons illuminate and the emergency call button disengages. The elevator starts moving and it’s unclear whether you’re going up, down, sideways, diagonally or anywhere at all. It feels like minutes since you’ve been in this crisis, but for all you know it could have been hours, weeks, months or years since you’ve entered the elevator. The soundtrack to this scenario is Andy Stott’s Passed Me By.
Passed Me By is a disorienting experience to say the least. Each track has a beginning, middle and end with some sort of entrance and resolution, but once you venture into any of the songs on this release, let alone the album as whole, you’re immediately lost in a timeless vortex. The opening track “Signature” could very well be Morris code made by Predators, just as much as it could be made by an Alaskan mummy communicating telepathically from Saturn. Every song on Passed Me By is a seemingly endless loop with no distinguishable time period or origin. Was this made yesterday? Was this made today? Was this made by cockroaches who survived the apocalypse? Was this made when Pangaea was still intact? Throughout the entire release, it’s unclear.
If you listen to Passed Me By without this open mind, uncertainty or approach it with any expectation, you’re not going to like it. To me, that’s what’s enjoyable about it…it’s confrontational and doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not, which to me is an exploration of loops, arrangement, sonic texture, disorientation and patience. Also after DJing with Demdike Stare last year (Modern Love peers and collaborators) and experiencing one of their sets first hand, you can almost assume the Manchester production ethos is one of audio assault in the form of collage. Each song…movement, track, piece, whatever you want to call it…can also function as a fragment, a piece that may individually seem abstract, but put into some sort of context creates a story.
The best qualities of Passed Me By ranging from disorientation, confusion, relentless repetition and gritty sound design are not part of your typical “enjoyable” listening experience. Most people, including myself, prefer music with a discernible beginning, middle and end with melody, a familiar rhythm and lyrical clarity. Passed Me By has none of this deliberately. To me, Andy Stott is expected to be an explorer just as much as the audience is, which comes across as refreshing and honest. If you only have time to listen to individuals tracks, however, I would recommend the more melodic adventure “Intermittent,” and of course its most polished piece to the puzzle and title track, “Passing Me By.” When you’re ready to embark on voyages into uncertain voids, I highly recommend joining Andy Stott on his trip. He wants you to join him into worlds unknown with no foreseeable resolution, and for any listener eager to embark on this adventure, the journey is well worth it. I just wish it was longer.