Themes of longing, self-discovery, new parenthood and premonitions are weaved together in a new album by Dundee musician Andrew Wasylyk. Here, he speaks to Michael Alexander about launching his UK tour in Dundee – and becoming a dad!
Andrew Wasylyk has been busy.
The Dundee composer and producer has been preparing for the launch of his new album, making preparations for his UK tour and was recently long-listed for a Scottish Album of the Year award.
He also took part in James Yorkston’s Tae Write wi’ a Fifer alongside fellow musicians Mary Erskine, Finn Anderson and Horse McDonald.
However, if there’s been another significant development in Andrew’s life of late, then without a doubt it’s been the birth of his daughter.
What’s it like to be a dad?
“I’ve been chasing my tail, trying to catch up with work – and having a wee one now, it’s all a bit of a fog!” he laughs in an interview with The Courier.
“My daughter is 14 months now.
“She’s tearing around. Walking. She gets tired and then she’s falling about all over the place!
“She’s getting around well now. She’s quite a remarkable wee thing.
“I think I’m still trying to understand it all really,” he adds.
“It’s quite hard to put into words, to articulate it all.
“But yes – every day kind of navigates the full spectrum of emotions!”
Release of new album
Away from domesticity, Andrew’s workload has been mainly wrapped around his new album – Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls – which comes out on November 25.
The new album, and his UK tour, will be officially launched by a special performance at V&A Dundee on Tuesday December 6.
Andrew will be joined by an eight-piece ensemble to perform what is his second album for Clay Pipe Music.
Only 200 tickets were available for this now sold out performance in the Locke Hall of V&A Dundee. Tickets went on sale on October 26, as reported by The Courier.
The evening will also include compositions taken from his Scottish Album Of The Year Award nominated albums, Balgay Hill: Morning In Magnolia and Fugitive Light And Themes Of Consolation, as well as live accompanying visuals from artist and designer Tommy Perman.
The performance is the first date in Andrew’s UK tour that then takes in Leeds, Sheffield, London, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.
But he’s particularly pleased that a hometown audience will be first to hear the new album being played live.
‘Special’ to play V&A
“The performance at V&A Dundee will be the first time that we have performed pieces from Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls in front of an audience,” he says.
“It will also be the first date of the tour and V&A Dundee feels like the right place to start – not only because it’s my home town but I can see echoes between the music and the nature of the architecture of the building.”
Back in 2018, Andrew played at the opening of V&A Dundee in Slessor Gardens.
He did a set with his eight- piece group and played with Dundee musician Gary Clark from Danny Wilson.
“That seems like a lifetime ago now!” he laughs.
It’ll be extra special to play inside the V&A Dundee itself this time around, however.
“It totally is a special place for me,” says Andrew.
“It was special to play Slessor Gardens for the opening in 2018.
“But I think it’ll be quite surreal in a way to actually play the building.
“I know that area well from kind of flying down the flumes at the old Olympia (leisure centre) and spending a lot of time there in my childhood.
“So to go back all grown up with an eight piece group playing music there as part of a UK tour – that’s quite a lot to digest!”
The significance of the occasion is shared by John-David Henshaw, event manager at V&A Dundee, who says: “The Locke Hall at V&A Dundee is a superb space for performance, and we know that Andrew’s music will fit perfectly with the surroundings.
“We couldn’t be more pleased that Andrew is choosing to launch his new album in his home city and particularly at V&A Dundee.”
What influenced new album?
In Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls, Andrew explains that he finds “quietly sublime imagery in rich and immersive worlds, horizon-less oceans and limitless landscapes”.
The initial inspiration for the album was conceived as a commissioned response to The World’s Edge exhibition by American contemporary landscape photographer Thomas Joshua Cooper at the National Galleries of Scotland.
Over the course of the last three decades, Cooper has circumnavigated the globe making photographs of the most extreme points and locations surrounding the Atlantic Ocean.
The result was an episodic journey that covered five continents (Europe, Africa, North America, South America, and Antarctica).
He has set foot on uncharted land masses, contributing to cartography and earning him naming rights of previously unknown islands and archipelagos.
The only artist to have ever made photographs of the two poles, Cooper referred to the body of work as The World’s Edge – The Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity.
The exhibition contained 35 photographs and was based on the 2019 presentation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Cooper has lived in Glasgow since 1982 and is professor and senior researcher in fine art at the Glasgow School of Art.
Trip to Inchcolm Island
Andrew accompanied Cooper to Inchcolm Island in the Firth of Forth to learn of the artist’s practice – specifically, his three decades of travel.
Many of these locations will be under water within 35 years as a result of the impact of climate change.
Andrew was commissioned by the National Galleries of Scotland to create music in response to photographs by Cooper.
This melodic soundtrack was intended as both a response to, and an evocation of, the Atlantic basin images.
But after the exhibition, Andrew revisited the tunes and felt there was “unfinished work”.
“It felt like a door was ajar to potentially explore it further,” he says.
“So I went back into it and slowly a new album was emerging.
“I think I used some of the ideas behind Cooper’s work as a sort of jumping off point – as a point of departure.
“This idea of exploring outwardly in a search for a better understanding within yourself.
“It kind of gradually grew into this seven kind of song sweep as it were.”
Weaving together themes
The result is an album that weaves together themes of longing, self-discovery, new parenthood and premonitions.
Andrew explains that in ‘Dreamt In The Current Of Leafless Winter’, ambiences and devotional bells are imbued with the visceral playing of saxophonist/composer Angus Fairbairn, aka Alabaster DePlume, whose unmistakable tone casts ethereal and impressionistic hues across this striking, long form opener.
Elsewhere, string phrases flourish in pockets between restrained drum groove and light-touch piano chords of ‘The Confluence’, conducted by Pete Harvey (Modern Studies).
Harvey’s sonorous arrangements augmented Andrew’s ‘The Paralian’ (2019) and ‘Fugitive Light And Themes Of Consolation’ (2020).
The arc of present and past is examined in ‘The Life Of Time’, featuring words and narration by Thomas Joshua Cooper himself.
Previously described as a “spiritual-jazz salve bathed in the cinematic”, Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls is framed in a “hypnagogic fog of wonder and possibility”.
He is accumulating a growing body of work.
With this new seven-song suite he distils these ideas and arguably offers perhaps his most bold record yet.
Life after lockdown
With the Covid-19 period having brought havoc to the arts sector, however, getting back out on the road to perform is not something that he takes for granted.
“I’ve been really lucky,” he says.
“I made an album during that period as a tool to kind of figure out a way through it all.
“I also wrote music for a play at Dundee Rep theatre called Wings Around Dundee during that time.
“I managed to keep myself relatively busy.
“Now that things are opening, it feels obviously great for that to happen, but it does kind of feel – from people and peers that I’ve spoken to – like things aren’t quite there yet.
“A lot of folk are overwhelmed by their workload now.
“It feels like a flood gate has opened and people are slightly consumed by the kind of momentum of things opening back up.
“I’ve had to re-adjust to learning how to juggle things – that’ more from a freelancer point of view – but yes it’s great on the one hand but it feels like it’s a bit of a sort of runaway train in others.”
Album and tour dates
Andrew Wasylyk’s album Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls is released on November 25.
The UK tour kicks off at V&A Dundee on Tuesday December 6 at 7pm.
The Dundee gig is now sold out Ticket details are available from www.tickets-scotland.com.