This review originally appeared on The Arts Desk.
Watching Adam Stafford at work can only be described as magical. Thanks to his ingenious use of loop and effects pedals, the Falkirk-born songwriter can spin intricate, layered compositions using nothing but his voice and a couple of bars on guitar. At last week’s Glasgow launch show for his latest album, he ended the night with a ten-minute monster from Awnings, a 2009 experimental a capella album. Cue an audience literally stunned by a noise as wild and intense – and yet, as strangely controlled – as that from a full orchestra.
It stands to reason that some of the immediate impact of Stafford’s live performance is lost on Imaginary Walls Collapse – but that’s probably just as well. It makes for a leaner, more compelling sound that, in its own way, is as easy to get lost in. It may not be as obvious that “Invisible Migration” – a song that distorts its political message in oblique lyrics and a driving, almost sinister beat – consists of one riff, some strumming on taut strings and a collection of vocal effects, but that doesn’t make its six and a half minutes any less mesmerising.
Although on its more complex tracks the album makes more use of additional musicians than on any of Stafford’s previous work, rather than create any sense of a traditional band these contributions are chopped, looped and sampled to serve the artist’s twisted vision. Of note are the honey-sweet vocals of Siobhan Wilson: running hypnotically through the fast-paced, distorted “His Acres”, and used to more traditional effect on “Ghostly Arms”; and a stunning turn by Anna Miles of Maple Leaves on the cryptic, alluring “Please”. “Sound of Fear Evaporating” proves that just because a song is musically challenging doesn’t mean it can’t come with pop sensibilities; while “Vanishing Tanks” – released as a split single with Rick Redbeard on Edinburgh’s Gerry Loves Records last year – elevates beatboxing to an art form.
BUY: Song, By Toad
GIG OF THE WEEK: Up to much on Saturday night? It’s a double-header: the first Glad Cafe show from our pals at Pop!South is on Saturday night: the fab line-up features the debut of Yakuri Cable, Northern Spies, Arts & Leisure and an acoustic Ballboy set, and you can get tickets in advance for £6. Afterwards, pop along to Bloc for TYCI #9, featuring Us Baby Bear Bones and MILK DJs (free before midnight, £2 after unless you have “TYCI” on yr knuckles).