Daniel Avery is one of a handful of noteworthy electronic producers who, over the years, has transition from a relatively slick and shiny sound to something much rougher around the edges. Andy Stott being another one, who a decade ago transformed his clean-lined techno into a lumbering reverb and distortion-caked take on dance music. Over the course of his last few releases, Avery has moved away from acidic, almost trancey techno, to something far more industrial in sound and spacious in scope.
You could see this as part of a trend confined not just to music, but fashion and design generally, as tastes shift away from the shiny and modern towards a supposedly more organic and authentic aesthetic. Artists like Daniel Avery, Andy Stott and Burial (and dozens more) could be seen as analogous to furniture up-cyclers, taking something that was once gleamingly futuristic and adding a coat of grime and scuffs of originality. ‘Distressed dance music’ to go with your distressed furniture and pre-loved clothes.
Anyway, digressions aside, it’s clear from Together in Static that Avery’s new sound is fully embedded, as this album very much carries the torch from last year’s standout Love & Light. A double album that dealt equally in ethereal droning ambience and gut-quaking techno pounders. Together in Static was released in conjunction with Avery’s ‘global stream’, beamed live from St John’s Church in Hackney, in June. But there’s nothing ostensibly about the release, in either the recordings themselves or the way they’re sequenced, that would indicate it’s a live album per se. As someone who’s never been particularly enamoured with the format (aside from a few exceptions, crowd noise between tracks and an excess of reverb never did much for me to improve a home-listening experience) this is a plus rather than a weakness.
The album opens with ‘Crystal Eyes’, five minutes of the aforementioned ethereal droning ambience to set the scene. The celestial pads and sombre bass-tones would certainly make for a transformative experience if witnessed live in the awe-inspiring St John’s Church, with its towering stained-glass windows facing off against a gargantuan church organ. As this intro fades to a soothing close, ‘Yesterday Fades’ immediately announces its arrival with lumbering industrial kick drums signifying a sharp change of mood and pace. The ethereal ambience is soon reintroduced though, floating high above the mix. It’s this juxtaposition of gossamer-light textures with pummelling tribal percussion that defines much of Avery’s current phase – and can’t help but call to mind early 90s Richard D James releases such as the Caustic Window LP or Analogue Bubblebath series.
There are several tracks more tracks on Together in Static that also recall this formative era. The uplifting synths and muted beats of ‘Nowhere Sound’ are arguably simplistic, but along with cuts like ‘A Life That is Your Own’ and ‘Hazel and Gold’ are unashamedly lovely. It all comes across like no-strings-attached feelgood music, full of the same optimism and weary euphoria of the halcyon days of the early 90s. Maybe some would accuse Avery of cheesiness (or laziness) for revisiting this already very well-mined seam of electronic music’s golden age, but given the circumstances of the live performance that birthed this project, surely we all need a bit of a boost? By all accounts, Daniel Avery is dynamite live and no doubt when he’s back and playing in the flesh to a room full of sweating bodies, he’ll shed some of the expansive melodies in favour of more balls-to-the-wall kick-drum fuelled intensity.
In spite of its many strong moments, taken as a whole Together in Static feels like a bit of a stopgap – the precursor to something more. And Avery has hinted as much on social media, with a teasing reference to this being “just the beginning”. Although it’s a tight, cohesive album that continues seamlessly where Love & Light left off, it doesn’t really offer anything new. But I mean that as no criticism. As the three second vocal snippet towards the end of the album declares, “Hope comes in many forms”. And for better or worse, the UK is now emerging from the static of the last 15 months, blinking in the sunlight and unsure of what lies ahead. Together in Static is Avery’s document from this strange time and feels like a neat encapsulation of the feelings – hope, uncertainty, anticipation – shared by anyone who’s looking forward to experiencing their next concert/rave/gig not through a laptop screen but live and in the flesh.