Adam Stafford - Imaginary Walls Collapse (4 stars)

Second solo album from Falkirk polymath veers towards electronics and human harmony

Adam Stafford - Imaginary Walls Collapse

(Song, By Toad)

There’s only one Adam Stafford. He has myriad guises, of course – Scottish BAFTA-winning filmmaker (The Shutdown with Alan Bissett); DIY label boss (Wise Blood Industries); music video director (The Twilight Sad’s ‘Seven Years of Letters’); frontman of ace bygone miscreants Y’All Is Fantasy Island – not to mention a Falkirk cult-pop star with a penchant for beat-boxing, ingenious art-rock, David Byrne-ian live shows, and setting movies to musical vignettes.

And so it is on Imaginary Walls Collapse, Stafford’s second solo album, and first for Song, By Toad. It resumes where terrific 2011 predecessor, Build A Harbour Immediately left off – all loop-building, axe-fuelled sonic (mis)shapes and vivid narratives – but Imaginary Walls Collapse is tooled up in all sorts of deviant ways: it’s less acoustic; more propelled by electronics and the sounds of human harmony and dissonance – from the euphoric beat-boxing guitar-pop of ‘Vanishing Tanks’ to the mechano-groove of ‘Carshulton Girls’.

Stafford asserts his statement of intent via the album’s Ginsberg-inspired title (which alludes to breaking down the psychological barriers you’ve constructed around yourself), and the opening title track. It’s industrial in form (clanging early Depeche Mode riffage) and source (Stafford has long cited his home-town of Falkirk as influence) and its typically intense lyricism sets the tone – ‘she’s going to dress you up in rubber, and send the pictures to your mother,’ he cautions. Initially this might invoke the subversive, fetishistic grind of The Normal, but it becomes apparent as the album unfolds that any constraints and humiliations may be less S&M-bound and rather more trussed up in contemporary society: the ties of work; debt; shame; our day-to-day.

Mini-epiphany ‘Please’, meanwhile, is a gorgeous gospel-folk chorale and, perhaps, a paean to struggle – be that artistic, romantic or existential. ‘Crawling on all fours, it won’t make you a star, it won’t make you alive,’ Stafford beautifully sings – and you only hope that these words were as cathartic to write as they are to hear.


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