(Song, By Toad Records, out Fri 4 May 2018)
Falkirk native Adam Stafford’s new album Fire Behind the Curtain is a musical behemoth. Written over a dark eight-year period in Stafford’s life, the fight with crippling depression is evident throughout, with the album’s frenzied, jarring sounds and choral wailing. However, the album also manages to convey soothing and relaxing melodies too.
Opening the album An Abacus Designed to Calculate Infinity welcomes listeners in with its looping melodies. Each slowly build on top of one another to create a beautiful musical composition. The whistling and strings convey peace but five minutes in a discordant drone takes over the track and an unnerving bass dominates. The strings return by the end but are overpowered by the anxiety-inducing thud of the bass. This track perfectly encapsulates the tone and theme of the album. It’s a great introduction and is sure to hook listeners.
Zero Disruption further highlights the looping minimalism of the album. Simple guitar rhythms play throughout the track as vocals assemble, somehow harmonising with one another despite their frantic nature. The choir’s input manages to contrast serenity with distracting chanting. Without lyrics, this track (and album) conveys the effects of depression and anxiety, as listeners struggle to focus on a single looping melody.
A jarring spoken word song offers a short interlude in Strangers Care When You Burn. Stafford’s voice comes as a bit of shock and yet fits perfectly within the album. Penshaw Monument is intense and unsettling. A collection of ritualistic chanting, it’s disconcerting and powerful. Adding to the mental health theme, it sounds like a panic attack growing and growing. The true achievement in this track is that it was somehow recorded in one take.
There’s humour to be found here too with Museum of Grinding Dicks and its take on masculinity culture. Additionally, tracks like Sails Cutting Through an Autumn Night and I’m You Last Week offer serene breaks that allow listeners to relax.
Adam Stafford has created a musical triumph with this album. A gateway into a tortured soul, Stafford shows what crippling depression can be like. He does this with beautiful, spiritual, harsh and melodic tracks that are emotive enough without lyrics. Fire Behind the Curtain is a genuine achievement worthy of respect.