Like the trilogy of albums Andrew Wasylyk released prior to it, last summer’s Balgay Hill: Mornings in Magnolia is a record about his home city of Dundee and its landscape.
It’s not necessarily the record he would have been making had lockdown not come along, though.
“Balgay Park’s been a real sanctuary for me over the past little while,” he says.
“The cloud of uncertainty and anxiety that’s been hanging over us all made it a very conducive place to spend time in.
How Balgay Hill was born
“Early morning walks started sowing the seeds of this album, in amongst the panoramic views and the Mills Observatory and the Western Necropolis.
“Little details were emerging that started to ignite thoughts about an album centred round Balgay Hill.
“When I was there I started making field recordings of the environment – wood pigeons in the blossom trees of the graveyard, dog walkers, kids getting shouted at from their parents, even the distant hum of passing passengerless buses, they all bled into it.
“I took these home and started building some music on them.
“Most of the songs started life as music improvised on top of these field recordings.
“I was adding textures with vibraphone piano, synthesisers, drums and bass, some brass strings… so quite a variety of things were being been added for colour.”
The results are a relaxed hybrid of folk and jazz, as involving and thoughtful as the rest of Wasylyk’s music, but with an extra intimacy which reflects its origins.
Also a member of the indie rock group Idlewild, his prolific recording alias (his real name is Andrew Mitchell, the new surname is a tribute to an immigrant grandparent) has become one of the most dependably interesting brands in alternative Scottish music.
Listeners are also recommended to hear his previous albums Themes for Buildings and Spaces (2017), inspired by the architecture of Dundee, The Paralian (2019), inspired by the North Sea coastline, and Fugitive Light and Themes of Consolation (2020), about the landscape around the city and the Tay estuary.
“I didn’t really intend to write an album, as such,” he says, “but what you might call ‘recreational meditations’ slowly surfaced, and I spotted there was a pattern emerging.
“It came out of the circumstances. I hadn’t really set my mind upon writing a new album there and then, it was more a means of coping with that time.
“I just switched to default and decided to work my way through it, really – to literally just write music and see what happened.
“Slowly this door became ajar, and I saw there was an opportunity to write the album.”
Plans to perform Balgay Hill live have been hit by recent restrictions, which means he’s doubly relieved to be playing this date back in Dundee following cancellations or postponements of shows in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“The Gardyne Theatre is a great space, and it’s a good environment for those who might not have been to a gig for a while,” he says. “I’ve played there a few times, it’s always been a lovely night.”
Full eight-piece band
His full eight-piece band will feature drums and bass, a string section, brass and woodwind, and there will be live visuals from artist, musician and regular collaborator Tommy Perman.
Appearing in the band will be trumpeter Rachel Simpson, the only other musician on the record, alongside a supergroup of other contemporary Scottish musicians.
Among them will be flautist Sarah Hayes and bassist Joe Rattray from Admiral Fallow, and cellist Pete Harvey from Modern Studies and King Creosote’s band.
The very special support act will be Kathryn Joseph, who was until recently based in Broughty Ferry, until she moved back to Glasgow.
“She’s my friend and a very inspiring artist that I love dearly,” says Wasylyk. “I’m just thrilled that she’s going to be opening up – it was great having her in the city, I could go and annoy her any time I liked.”
Single, longform work
Recently he’s also recorded a single, longform piece of work with saxophonist Alabaster DePlume, and next up it’s a question of switching off praise from the outside world and trying to focus on the next project.
“I’m just trying to get on with my work, really,” he says.
“There’s only so much time and energy to listen to the outside noise, you just need to get your head down and get on with your work.
“That’s always the plan as a creative person.”
Andrew Wasylyk plays the Gardyne Theatre on Friday February 4. His music is available at andrewwasylyk.bandcamp.com