Review: A Man Called Adam – The Girl With A Hole In Her Heart

Artwork for a man called adam's 2023 album The Girl with The Hole in Her Heart

Post-lockdown, A Man Called Adam embrace open space.

Where do veteran ravers go to chill out? Some would probably head to Ibiza (the movement’s spiritual home), possibly a European nexus like Berlin, or maybe even Thailand.

A Man Called Adam – duo Sally Rogers and Steve Jones – are still most widely recognised for their early 90s anthem Barefoot In The Head, a tune still regularly outed wherever club classic nights are held.

But as lockdown gripped her creative process, Rogers found herself not sipping cocktails but back in Britain’s industrial north-east, a homecoming to the Teesside she’d grown up and where her family had lived for a time in a house attached to a working men’s club.

Once back her impression was of a region’s industrial heritage being expunged by what defines itself as progress, many of the totemic physical manifestations of her childhood already gone forever. With Jones in Paris but effectively confined to his apartment, the two began to sketch what would eventually become The Girl With A Hole In Her Heart.

The titular opener was directly inspired, Rogers says, by a conversation overheard decades ago, the primitive drum patterns and retro synths (featuring a lick borrowed from a Sheena Easton track) chattering from another time and place.

It’s a pattern that often repeats – experiential sources transformed into sounds at right angles to them – embodied on tracks like Starlings, the rise and fall of their murmuration celebrated in strings and a flute, an energy that draws on subjects, ‘forty million years in flight’.

Change happens: faced with the self-fulfilling prophecy of a life in the north-east, Rogers fled to London before her 18th birthday. Drawing on these conflicting feelings – nostalgic warmth, irredeemable loss, resignation about the future – could’ve tempered the outcomes, but the atmosphere stays resiliently warm amongst the eclectic choice of styles and moods.

You might be forgiven, having read to this point, for thinking that you’d come to the wrong place, but on Fight Or Flight a more familiar house piano chimes, there’s dancing until the sun comes up and lives are lived for today.

Doubling down on that vibe, Frankie’s Theme is cut fuzzily from the same vintage jazz funk cloth as Shakatak’s Nightbirds, itching high hat and pitch shifted vocals bent round some vintage, pre-808 nights out vibes.

Even in those dreams however there’s never a sense of total abandonment, and there are also still large tracts of ambient sounds to be negotiated; the tumbling modular synth lines of Stochastic are in contrast to In Favour Of Storms’ quieter reverberations, the latter is phrased with field recordings and other found sounds, an aural collage wrapped in a closed veil of morning beachside stillness.

After each of these excursions though feet still return to ground. Middlesbrough’s Bongo Club was the first black owned in the area, and it features in two chapters here both entitled Over The Border, although neither are as cosmopolitan as the stories former patrons recall of it.

Not being guilty about pleasure is one of the lessons we all learned from being kept in our bedrooms, because sacrifice is rewarded only how you want it to be.

Closer It’s Science Baby revels in this truth of needing to seize chances for happiness; the loosest, most groove orientated track here, one that puts all the residual mental backwash inside a box marked ‘trouble’ and then throws away the key.

Sally Rogers’ lockdown journey meant taking the A19 not Route 66. The Girl With A Hole In Her Heart is A Man Called Adam choosing to ignore boundaries; as this goes, they’re not ready for a bungalow on the white island just yet.

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