Brighton Magazine

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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


Whats on in Brighton today

Stone Foundation's new album, Everybody, Anyone, was recorded at Paul Weller's Black Barn Studios in Surrey and features a sprinkling of guest musicians.

The flamboyant world of Brighton in the 1880s and back-street life of the 1930s and 50s are the focus of two new books from community publisher QueenSpark Books.

Reading the wonderful new Ronnie Lane oral biography, Can You Show Me A Dream?, it would be easy for the reader to be left with the impression that Ronnie's life cycle had been a wild journey with a sad ending. But for Ronnie the journey hadn't ended. The letter had left the envelope, that's all.

Black Deer Festival takes place in the beautiful surroundings of Eridge Park, Britain's oldest deer park, located on the Kent/East Sussex border near Tunbridge Wells, and you can expect an array of authentic americana-style meats, smokey whiskeys, bespoke custom bike showcases, storytellings from cultural pioneers, not to mention a line-up of artists across the Americana, blues, roots, authentic country, folk and bluegrass genres.  

The RPMs new single Let Things Happen raises the bar significantly for this young Brighton band. 
(c) Tom Sheehan 2018

Del Amitri return this summer for a UK tour, the celebrated Glaswegian band's first run of dates since 2014.

Albert Hammond Jr's latest album Francis Trouble explores a deeply personal topic – the stillborn death of his twin brother, Francis, and the lingering effects that event has had in his life and music. 

Sea Life Brighton has issued an urgent appeal for the public to become more responsible with their waste after collecting a record amount of rubbish on Brighton beach. 

One-hundred years on from the first women in the country being granted the right to vote, Brighton Dome has been officially recognised as one of forty-one buildings across England that were at the centre of suffragette action.

Joan Armatrading is a woman of candour – not to mention can do. She gets straight to the heart of the matter, and she delivers.

The drama and magic of Glyndebourne Festival provide the inspiration for a new children’s book, The Mulberry Bees.

Fusing powerful song writing with musical flare, Brighton-based Hatful of Rain combine their English, Celtic and American inspirations to great effect on their new album. 

The UK's first ever interactive film event, an opportunity to walk a mile in someone else's shoes or to fly in a virtual reality world, and a marathon performance of remembered dances are all part of a packed autumn season at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, Brighton.  

A special ceremony is being held this month at Woodvale Cemetery, Brighton, to return the gravestone of Thomas Highflyer, a 12-year-old slave boy who was rescued from a slave dhow and died in Brighton 148 years ago.

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