WHENEVER Adam Stafford has put out a record, it’s been acclaimed as one of the best releases of the year.

When his project, Y’All Is Fantasy Island, released three full albums in 2008, critics strained for enough superlatives. Ten years on, the musician and award-winning short filmmaker is about to release Fire Behind The Curtain, a vast instrumental album that’s as compelling as any of his more traditional song-based records.

Featuring regular multi-instrumentalist collaborator Robbie Lesiuk and string compositions by Modern Studies’ Pete Harvey – both of whom will perform at two album launch gigs alongside Stafford and PAWS drummer Josh Swinney – the album has taken around eight years to make.

One of the first tracks Stafford wrote was The Witch Hunt, a cinematic nine-minute epic which builds to a chanting climax before ebbing into calmer, delicate guitar figures. A feature of Stafford’s live set for much of the time since Y’All Is Fantasy Island’s 2010 split, the track marks the mid-point of Fire Behind The Curtain. It’s an album of two halves, with Harvey’s Pumpkin Seeds Orchestra weaving around Stafford and Lesiuk’s repetitive bleeps, clanks and guitar loops in the bucolic first section.

The second half includes Museum Of Grinding Dicks, a warped death march the title of which, Stafford says, refers to the “toxic misogynistic culture that operates in society in general”.

Darker, troubled and tumultuous, this is highly emotive stuff. Listen to the heart-squeezing I’m You Last Week and dare your skin not to turn to gooseflesh. In its unconventional approach to rhythm and composition, it often recalls Varmints, the 2016 Scottish Album of the Year by the classically-trained Anna Meredith.

Whereas she uses visual images of shapes and colours to inform her compositions, much of Stafford’s work here was informed by his own health experiences.

“I was going through a particularly bad time with depression,” says Stafford from his home in Falkirk. “Sometimes when you feel like that the best thing to do is rest, but writing this was a way of keeping my mind active and distracted from the depression.

He adds: “There’s a track called Invade They Say Fine which is quite ugly. It has these kind of panicky loops in the background and these big slabs of saxophone. This was kind of analogous to how I was feeling at the time.”

Recorded in The Happiness Hotel, which is the HQ of Stafford’s label Song, By Toad, Fire Behind The Curtain is already attracting acclaim. As fellow musician RM Hubbert tweeted earlier this week: “@ad_stafford’s new album will break your heart them pummel you a bit for good measure. In the best way. Go buy it.”

The heart of many tracks is the almost meditative pattern repetition techniques favoured by the likes of minimalist composer Steve Reich and cross-disciplinary one-off Meredith Monk, an artist much of whose work is wordless.

“I have always loved instrumental music,” Stafford says. “When I was a teenager, I was really into Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai, the usual suspects. I didn’t start getting into Steve Reich until I was in my mid to late 20s. The same with Meredith Monk, who is a huge influence. When I heard her Book Of Days I was blown away.’’

Stafford adds: “I’ve always wanted to do double album. One of my favourite albums is Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I love the idea of that record where, in the world of disposable music, you have to sit down and really engage with it emotionally and intellectually.”

May 3, Summerhall, Edinburgh, 8pm, £10. Tickets: bit.ly/AdamSummerhall

May 4, Hug and Pint, Glasgow, 7pm, £8.50. Tickets: bit.ly/AdamHugPint

Fire Behind The Curtain is out via Song, By Toad on May 4

adam-stafford.tumblr.com @ad_stafford