You never quite know which Barry Adamson you're going to get. This is a musician who witnessed the birth of UK punk; who participated in the much more enduring post-punk movement with Magazine, who discovered synths and studio techniques during downtime in Magazine recording sessions; who added his distinctive bass playing to the tail end of Nick Cave’s The Birthday Party and the earliest – and most recent reincarnation – of Cave’s Bad Seeds; who took an improbable turn into soundtrack composition; who developed a noir-ish, darkly humorous jazz-inflected soundworld lauded by Portishead; who discovered, pretty late in his solo career, that he could also sing pretty well too.
The answer to the enquiry as to which Adamson appears on ‘Know Where To Run’ is, frankly, all of them. ‘Cine City’ is loaded up with jazz and blues hooks as well as Adamson’s trademark sense of wry humour, while the serene, evocative folk of ‘Come Away’ owes a debt to his time spent with the modern-day troubadour Nick Cave, as well as looking back at tracks like ‘The Long Way Back Again’ from Adamson’s own catalogue. Adamson as a vocalist is still a curious proposition; benefiting from a deep, soulful purr, he is undoubtedly a strong singer, but because he's so fond of throwing in humorous wordplay, it's sometimes hard to take him seriously. If you can look behind any implied archness, tracks like ‘Come Away’ and the string symphony of ‘Claw And Wing’ are some of the best things he's done in the vocal phase of his career.
Adamson’s reinvention as a vocalist inevitably meant a significant distance from his darkly-inflected work for real and imagined soundtracks, and despite majoring in the folk / jazz / rock side of his personality, ‘Know Where To Run’ still finds time to deal with synth-soaked soundscapes. Opener ‘In Other Worlds’ is pure sonic alchemy while the lengthy ‘Texas Crash’ slams a strain of urgent IDM into wild rockabilly and skronky jazz motifs, something Adamson could have developed for his work with David Lynch.
So long as you can tolerate the musical hopscotch that a Barry Adamson album always represents, ‘Know Where To Run’ is probably as good an introduction to this peripatetic musician as you're ever likely to need. Just make sure to expect the unexpected.
Words: Mat Smith (@mjasmith)
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