To say that an album like “Drop The Vowels” is a lot to digest is like generalizing the Modern Love record label as mere ‘experimental electronic music’. Following a series of largely limited edition 12” releases, Millie & Andrea, aka Miles Whittaker (of Demdike Stare) and Andy Stott, have joined forces, once more, creating a 45 minute+ magnum opus of cohesive brilliance, sonically high-fiving devotees of both grating, nightmarish noise while patting the backs of low-end-craving drum & bass aficionados.
Searching for the origins and meaning behind a work as dynamic and spontaneous as this, fans are met with more questions than answers, scratching their heads as to how two electronic icons have fused their respective sounds into such a scalding cauldron of murky club concoctions. Reexamining Miles’ past work, crafting disorienting and downright haunting soundscapes as one half of the Demdike Stare duo, sheds light on his predisposition to explore space, texture, and mood, while Andy has maintained a long affinity for rhythm, vocal sample manipulation, and an emphasis on reconfiguring dance music fundamentals. With that, we are invited into the madness, being met with the embrace of a beguiling rhythm and chant, and just as we are swept up in its dizzying stupor, we are halted – awaking from our dream, or, perhaps, being redirected to a strange realm between dream and nightmare. Interplaying sounds of bells, pans, and strings clank, clatter, and strum, as a rewound tape loop begins to whir, and just as we begin to be swept up into this sonic cyclone, … an abrupt reverb snaps us back to reality – melodic hypnosis, in just over five minutes.
As the album progresses, we are taken into tantalizing modern dance territory, simultaneously in past and present, disquiet and ecstasy, horror and delight. It seems to make perfect sense that a record that bites off so much and unabashedly reworks old school sounds in new ways would materialize from a record label that similarly tricks and treats its fans. Similar in essence to work as Millie & Andrea, Miles and Andy’s collaborations have also expanded, incorporating label-mate Gary Howell, as a self-described ‘original junglist hardcore’ trio, known as HATE. Their project is said to have risen from the ashes of a previously unreleased, unidentified collection of early ‘90’s jungle and hardcore, and, in attempting to ascertain clarity and facts on such, many fans have considered such alleged beginnings as nothing more than hilarious (falsified) myth-making. Mirroring “Drop The Vowels’” essence, such a tale only adds to the confusion and wonder of a musical collective hell-bent on destroying definition and rules along its muddied path through dance music history.
As the album comes to a close, we are treated to the trademark enchantment and untraceable fantasy that both artists have honed over years prior. Similar to the introductory track, we first visit the swooning caress of a beautiful melody, before facing a haunting loop that evokes even more uncertainty, poses even more curiosity. As one music forum commenter posts on dubstepforum.com, “They’ve […] the most to gain by building up mystique!”, it is a relief to see that the more dedicated Modern Love followers are as unclear and perplexed as someone newer to their catalogue as I am, but I would have to argue that, perhaps, we, as listeners have even more to gain.