Adam Stafford – The Acid Bothy
Falkirk composer and multi-instrumentalist Adam Stafford provides a rough blueprint for utopia on lo-fi dreamscape The Acid Bothy
Adam Stafford’s The Acid Bothy will be a major slog for any listener seeking anything like 2018’s Fire Behind the Curtain. The Falkirk musician’s outsider humour shines in cheeky sonic ideas and song titles. But instead of a glimmering fount of crystal-clear water, we find an hour-plus of steaming, soupy lo-fi improvisation, recorded direct to mono tape “during a MA-HOOSIVE winter whitey” (in Stafford’s words). But Stafford doesn’t seem as interested in repeating his past as he is wiping it completely; covering it with crisp, white snow. The Acid Bothy confronts, among other things, how an artist brings something new into the world, a cognitive break with what came before, a freshly dealt hand of cards. In other words, it’s the mystery of creation itself.
Here’s the listening experience from the ground; you’ve endured roughly 20 minutes of perilously explorative, implausibly rough free-improvisation – synth, guitar, field recording, who can say – and the remaining one third of the album stretches out like a perilous mountain range between yourself and your next record (something more sprightly, you hope). But then, just when the artist seems at his most distant, like a mountain guide who’s long wearied of your company, someone starts to speak, tinny and intimate as an answer phone message, and The Acid Bothy suddenly pulls into focus. “A’ they wankers moved oot 'n' left the small toons deid”. (I’d never felt more seen by a musician, dear reader). “Small town life mate – fuck the hipsters”.
It’s tempting to read ‘Small Town Life Mate’ as Stafford’s mission statement for The Acid Bothy, concerned as it is with calling out hipster culture in favour of pastoral communities, or living within your means. This isn’t a parochial call to the rural – even if the granular contours of Chainsaw Teams and Beach Shadow Hollow Tapping recall idyllic romantic compositions, their folk melodies slowed down by a subway crowd – but a waking jolt. Stafford makes a call to action by appropriating the acid culture of 90s rave – the promise of collective, self-organised euphoria – and builds a bothy – a hut for workers, a refuge. The Acid Bothy, with its shimmering valleys, cluttered stone ranges, and hissing sideways rain, is still bigger than the sum of its parts. Care about where you and your neighbours reside, Stafford seems to say. Independent art is suffering in our culture, he seems to say. Put on a gig in your flat, even if you have no instruments. Make a zine with your friends. Organise a Harry Seacombe Rave. Just do something.
Listen to: Chainsaw Teams, Small Town Living Mate, Harry Seacombe Rave