Although this review relates to a new Adam stafford album, his story begins in May 2018. Stafford has just released his most complex and personal album to date ‘Fire Behind the Curtain’. It was an instrumental double album with neo-classical influences on his history with mental health issues. To say it was awesome was an understatement. It was filled with captivating, curly guitars, killer melodies, and an underlying tenderness that really took what it feels like to live with issues of this nature.

However, towards the end of 2018, Stafford announced that he was retiring from music with immediate effect. Some of us hoped Stafford just needed a break, others feared it was the end of Falkirk’s finest musical career. Then, out of nowhere, in January 2019, Stafford self-edited the tape “The Acid Bothy”. It was a collection of experimental songs based on synths. Rumor has it that Stafford acquired a synth and that by experimenting with it he made the album. It was less of a songbook and more of the sound of a musician who fell in love with his profession. Since ‘The Acid Bothy’ Stafford has hinted that he is working on another full album. This album is an album that no one, including Stafford, would ever have thought to hear released.

‘Diamond Of A Horse Famine’ is a laconic 34-minute affair that shows Stafford in a more thoughtful and introspective vibe than on previous albums. Usually they are filled with mesmerizing maelstroms of guitars and looping effects. ‘Thirty Years of Bad Road’ opens with a dark riff, supported by cascading synths. Lyrically, Stafford is at its abstract, yet xxx. “Waking up with the feeling of having walked behind you” is the first thing you hear him say. Then “Widespread voices will say the answer is simple, just dedicate your whole day, to a life that is more miserable, it is a vivid image that uplifts more.” This is a slightly darker version of Stafford than what we’ve heard before.

As the music progresses, the synths slowly become more pronounced in the mix, adding much-needed upbeat melodies. The song ends on a hopeful note “Even if that doesn’t mean I’m grateful today.” But you don’t care anyway, I’m still grateful today. There’s a glorious section on ‘History Of Longest Days’ where it feels like the guitars are played on an old cassette and its coils keep slipping and we get these weird time signatures. It’s keys like these that really show Stafford’s ability as a guitarist and master of the pedals of his effects.

Despite this darker mood, Stafford still has time to squeeze some hilarious lines and imagery into his songs. “Erotic Thistle” contains the xxx “Melt my death mask and turn it into a dildo.” You lean closer to whisper the words “ex-nun” to me. On “What Kind of Man” Stafford wonders “What kind of man is going to want me, with an anus like a wizard’s sleeve?” “,” What kind of man is going to want me. With a face like a shriveled leaf? and “What kind of man is going to want me, With a body like a mutilated tree?” While the song is about what happens when people get old and have to start over, there’s something really funny about it.

The title track is made up of four minutes of scratchy slide guitar, vocal samples, and ramshackle riffs. It’s a side of Stafford we’ve never seen before. Usually his music is blank. Here we find him getting dirty. It sounds invigorating. Not just for the change in texture and tone on the album, but for the fact that it’s still capable of surprising us after more than a decade of releasing music. “Diamond of a Horse Famine” sets up the latest songs in a way that refocuses our attention, in case Stafford throws another curveball at us.

‘Diamond Of A Horse Famine’s is a different album than we’re used to. It’s more of a standard singer-songwriter affair. Or as close as Stafford will allow. The songs are also more immediate than on previous albums, which means everything was recorded in a few takes, rather than through many extended jams.

What “Diamond Of A Horse Famine” shows is that Stafford is back at his best, but he’s not recreating his previous albums for fun. Nothing Stafford does it for fun. His guitar work is exquisite and his ability to tilt his guitar in twisted curls has set him apart from his peers, but he doesn’t use his stuff box the same way he did on ‘Imaginary Walls. Collapse ‘,’ Taser Revelations’ or ‘Fire behind the curtain’. The solo on ‘Salve’ is perhaps his best yet. However, the songs are equally compelling.

It’s a brave album that deserves praise for its honesty. Rumor has it that there is another album ready to be released. If this is true then Adam Stafford is a slave to his art and his best can still be heard.

9/10

Words: Nick roseblade

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