Album of the Week: Adam Stafford – Imaginary Walls Collapse
While 2011′s Build A Harbour Immediately was a well received and well respected album, there’s no doubting that its creator – one Adam Stafford – is seen more as a live performer more than a recording artist.
To say the man has mastered the loop pedal would be the greatest understatement in Christendom. Stafford can put on a one man show like no other, from layers and layers of acapella doo wop on Shot Down You Summer Wannabes to transforming the full band-recorded Step Up, Raise Hands in a squalling solo vacuum of venomous feedback, he holds the stage like no other.
Last year’s Gerry Loves release Vanishing Tanks bettered anything on the album and cheekily reappears on album number two, Imaginary Walls Collapse. A bizarre mix of rough guitar and beatboxing, it already feels like a modern Scottish classic, and anything placed alongside it would pale in comparison, right?
Very, very wrong. Vanishing Tanks is just one of a number of highlights on an album that feels more cohesive, more of a single piece of work than Build A Harbour. And it’s not just one man going tonto on his pedals, either, however these songs end up translating to the live setting. Please is a languid, twangy little country song with the talented Anna Miles adding some rather pleasant harmonies, while Ghost Arms is a neat, hushed little affair.
It’s remarkably accessible stuff, especially placed alongside his deliberately difficult Record Store Day tape Millions Must Work Forever. The beatboxing – truly a lost art that needs rescuing from the 80s – is back on Cold Seas, duelling with more Wilson vocals and some parping brass.
Stafford’s old band Y’all is Fantasy Island were cult heroes, but his solo work has surely crept past their work in terms of appeal, something which will surely be aided by this album being out on Song, by Toad Records.
Imaginary Walls Collapse is clever, tuneful and wildly inventive (take Sound of Fear Evaporating’s many, many layers of sound). If Build A Harbour felt like a man bridging two musical stages, this is us very much on to stage two. Next stop, world domination?
Ah, Mr Stafford. Wilkommen. How does this album differ from Build a Harbour?
There are less acoustics I suppose and more of a propulsive electric sound. There was maybe a more experimental side of Harbour – in terms of song structure – that I just avoided on this album and tried to distill it to the bare essential of “the song” without too many ornaments or too much faffing. The process of recording loop-based songs has just extended since that album, we treat the whole thing as if we were making a dance or electronic album and sampled every part individually, building it up to a click-track.
The big theme I think is the bondage that the purveyors of modern life truss you up in: work, debt, paying your dues to society. We all want to be happy little drones without a thought to what the alternatives could be. We gobble-up the garbage that the mainstream media, the banks and the government tell us is gospel and all we’re doing is tightening the bondage ropes even more. The title – stolen from Ginsberg, I think – is about when the imaginary walls that you’ve erected in your mind collapse and you can start having more confidence in your own ideas and being less paranoid about what kind of person you haven’t become. In terms of other influences, I would cite a Taschen book of 1950′s Fetish magazines called Bizarre, the Talking Head’s LP Remain in Light and dreams about my childhood as playing a big part.
How the hell did you get involved with Song, by Toad??
They saw me performing live with the Twilight Sad in Edinburgh and we chatted afterwards. Matthew from the label wrote a glowing review of the gig and then came to see me again the following night. I might have joked with them about putting out the next album because self-releasing can be exhausting when you’re trying to do all of the PR yourself, and just the fact that they are one of the three great Scottish labels active right now. I must give them massive credit too as I was on the verge of giving up before I recorded the album and they talked me off of the ledge.
Tell us about your upcoming live shows!
July 5th for the LP Launch in The Glad Cafe, Glasgow and one at the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh on the 4th.
Imaginary Walls Collapse is out on July 15 through Song, by Toad Records.