Music review: Adam Stafford, Summerhall, Edinburgh

Written over the past eight years during a series of major life events, from new fatherhood to a period of severe depression, Falkirk-based musician, filmmaker and photographer Adam Stafford's new album Fire Behind the Curtain is a major document of a prolific career.

Adam Stafford

Adam Stafford, Summerhall, Edinburgh, ****

The double vinyl album of instrumentals shows off his exceptional ability for composition and capturing an emotional mood. “Thank you to Matthew,” Stafford said, referring to Matthew Young of the Leith-based Song, By Toad label, “for agreeing to bankrupt himself (by releasing it)”.

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Summerhall’s Anatomy Lecture Theatre, a vault-like stone chamber in which the audience rises high above the stage area on uncomfortable wooden benches, was the perfect place in which to give the record a launch run. Played by Stafford on electric guitar and loop pedal, alongside bassist Robbie Lesiuk (the album’s producer) and drummer Josh Swinney (violinist Pete Harvey had to call off with shingles), the music is raw and analogue, a living relic of a different time when sonic experimentalism was based simply around what could be done with a guitar and a basic array of recording equipment.

Of course, now technology permits the sonic manipulation to be performed on stage.Stafford’s compositions were a densely looped wall of sound which rolled through the light, symphonic Zero Disruption, the oppressive roar of Museum of Grinding D***s – an attempt to recreate the sound of toxic masculinity – and finally, with his bandmates offstage, the striking acapella orchestration of numerous live vocal tracks into the closing duo of Shot Down You Summer Wannabes and 
Penshaw Monument.

While the sonic arrangements are satisfying, it’s worth noting the spark of unique genius which has made them possible with such simple technology.