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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Saturday 07 April 2018

Adam Stafford : New Minimalism-Inspired Album Draws On Struggle With Anxiety & Severe Depression

At the height of the Industrial Revolution, Falkirk's iron and steel industry bore the town three primary exports: carronades, pillar boxes, and buses. 

Though a great deal of historical literature exists on the development of these robust structures, there is little agreement as to why the three exports arose as organically as they did, but no one seemed to question. 

In this sense, the art of Falkirk's more recent export, musician and filmmaker Adam Stafford, is just another clash of absurdities that nonetheless works with beautiful precision; though it harbours no clear entry points for explosive shells, it may very well be discussed in canonical terms.

Like his minimalist forebears – Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, Ingram Marshal – Stafford's new experimental musical direction is both deeply engaging and perpetually distracting, built around frenetic, motorik layers of sound that somehow coalesce into a peaceful whole, an imperfectly modulated choir of howls. 

If we are to speak of it in ambient terms, it is perhaps borne of the airport itself rather than an escape from its noise. 

Noise – in the traditional sense of organic, unplanned sounds, incidentals, background harmonics – is a focal point, not something to be masked or shunned.

This is the starting pistol for Zero Disruption, the latest track from the forthcoming album Fire Behind the Curtain, named from a self-help relaxation CD that instructs the listener to seek "comfortable surroundings with zero disruption." 

Stafford elaborates: "It is my attempt at putting the influence of Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint to bed. 

"It was devised as an exercise in playing between the notes and layering jerky guitar figures in a staccato style. 

"The voices are meant to sound like alarms going off, and the track as a whole is based on panic and auditory hallucinations." 

As a species which now falls asleep to the artificial sound of roaring fires or thunderstorms, we are perhaps better accustomed to the satiating experience of controlled panic than we care to admit. 

Not everything has to be harmonious. "I've always preferred instrumental music to the more traditional song-based, structured form, even though most of my output over the years has consisted of the latter.

"I would rather experiment in building a piece with emotion, texture and tonality rather than wheel out all of the old clichés of unrequited love in lyrical form… I really just wanted to present music in which the listener can project their emotional content/context onto."

Fire Behind the Curtain is drenched in history, but it is also a personal exorcism and a testimony of Adam Stafford's internal struggle with anxiety and severe depression. 

Penshaw Monument is a ritual of chants and rhythms recorded in one live take, a personal purging of bad spirits and an attempt to break through the constraints of language. 

The first disc of the album, as the artist explains it, a "very loose concept album in terms of its themes of autumn, the entropic process of the season"s end, cremation - after death and (on "The Witch Hunt") during the witch trials of the 17th Century, when mass femicide was designed and executed by pious men who hid their sadism and repression behind a cloak of tenuous morality." 

Elsewhere, Adam Stafford battles toxic masculinity on Museum of Grinding Dicks ("a comment on the misogyny and naked aggressive ambition that permeates every aspect of our culture") as well as his own depression on Invade They Say Fine ("the monolithic sax-slab is analogous to the attack of fear and dread I experience.").

Where beauty does arrive, it is more often in the sweetness of the arrangements:. "Pete Harvey (Modern Studies) arranged sinuous string sections that elevate these compositions to a different level", Stafford recalls

"During the preparation process, we discussed what the strings would do on the tracks – allegro here, some pizzicato there – but nothing prepared me for the sheer astounding arrangements that Pete turned up with on the day of recording."

In Adam Stafford's world nothing is smoothed over, but thrown together in the spirit of industry, like a real town that builds pillar boxes and cannons; like real art that builds ecstasy out of torrential anxiety. 

Real art, which only sets four corners or a metronome to then immediately begin fussing at its edges, testing its mise en scène for weak spots, permeations, hard borders that might belie soft openings. 

Guitar riffs stacked on top of each other, layers of strings, layers of wordless vocals, each new overdub testing how high this tower will reach before it all comes toppling down, and perhaps that"s the point. Perhaps we should start building things from scratch again.

Adam Stafford's 'Fire Behind The Curtain' is available to purchase from 4th May 2018. CLICK HERE for more info.

by: Mike Cobley


A play about the life of Manchester Arena bomb victim Martyn Hett is set to come to the Brighton Fringe almost one year since the tragic event.
Pic by Andy Sturmey

Riding the wave of success and universal critical acclaim for their most recent album, F.E.A.R, Marillion graced the stage at Brighton Dome last night (16/4/18) and served up an epic and confident display of prog.

Superorganism is a London-based, eight person collective of international musicians and pop culture junkies from Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, who have, in just eighteen months, amassed a global fan base and acclaimed début album. 

Spymonkey's Stephan Kreiss will join Scottish actor Pauline Knowles in the world première of Problem in Brighton, a brand new alt-rock/pop pantomime written and directed by Brighton Festival 2018 Guest Director David Shrigley.

He's still the undisputed champion of Superbike; the most successful rider ever in the sport's history. Now Carl Fogarty is fifteen years into a retirement that has seen him be crowned King of the Jungle and trek across Patagonia, but, as for any former champion, giving up the sport that made him a household name has been no easy task.
(c) Delaram Pourabi

TT, also known as Theresa Wayman, vocalist and guitarist of Warpaint, has unveiled lead single I've Been Fine, in the run up to début album, LoveLaws

Brighton's Sallis Benney Theatre is set to showcase Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution, the thought provoking film that aims to encourage local students and residents to consider their current attitudes and behaviour towards sex, consent and gender.

The first glimpse of Brighton Festival 2018 is to be unveiled at Fabrica this weekend, in the form of David Shrigley's interactive installation, Life Model II.

Isaac Gracie's eponymous début album is the sound of an artist bit-by-bit breaking through the hype and the seeds of doubt that stem from the heavy expectation that greeted breakthrough song Last Words.
Photo by Bryan Kremkau

It was always a pleasure for The Brighton Magazine to host The Beat's Dave Wakeling, when he performed in the city as part of the 3 Men & Black collective (alongside Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers and Pauline Black and Nick Welsh from The Selecter).

Singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid, who recently played The Greys, in Brighton, has teamed up with award-winning filmmaker Brett Harvey for a music video/short film based on the poignant true story of Bill Conner, a father who lost his daughter and cycled 1,400 miles to hear her heart beating again in the body of its recipient. 

When people who have 'made it' are asked what they can thank for their transformation, few people would cite cancer, near poverty or isolation.

After setting up her label Seahorse Music to publish records by like-minded women and help make them more visible in a male-dominated industry, Bryde finished up her debut LP, Like An Island, flitting, between London and LA. 

The Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award is reserved solely for documentary photographers working on projects which are intended to make the world a better place and which may be unreported or under-reported.

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