Andrew Wasylyk’s fourth solo album comes just a year after The Paralian was short-listed for album of the year at the SAY awards. Andrew’s particularly scenic tour of musical styles remains impossible to pigeonhole. Even if the pigeon was Andrew-shaped and the hole was exactly genre-sized.
If 2017’s Themes for Buildings and Spaces was a representation of Dundonian architectural shadows, and The Paralian brought the Angus coastline to listeners’ ears, then Fugitive Light and Themes of Consolation seems to cap off the trilogy by exploring the light, the land and everything that lives under our skies.
Known for his work with The Hazey Janes and Idlewild under alternative moniker Andrew Mitchell, his work through alter ego Andrew Wasylyk still ensures he’s a busy enough guy.
Still Life, Sweetheart with Liz Lochhead, the second album he’s released with the former Makar, came out at the end of August. The piano work seems to be built around the prose, using seemingly the same unaccompanied piano throughout, each note and phrase only existing to carry Lochhead’s observations. Picking out the metaphor from the earnest is half the joy in listening, but despite the musical and poetic virtuosity on display, it’s undeniably niche and unlikely to be getting blasted by schoolkids up the back of a bus.
Fugitive Light and Themes of Consolation comes with string arrangements by fellow Taysider and longtime collaborator, Pete Harvey. FLaToC (I know this is a horrendous looking acronym but it’s necessary and, trust me, it sounds even worse said out loud) kicks off with ‘A Further Look At Loss’ where mournful thematic modulations eventually give way to a gentle swaggering bass, suggesting an attempt to be distant from the loss in the title.
Lead single, ‘Last Sunbeams of Childhood’ showcases Andrew and Pete’s clever layering. Intricate variations are played out on overlapping instruments, including possibly the creamiest-sounding jazz guitar amp sound ever captured. It’s the end credits to a dream’s in-flight movie.
‘Fugitive Light Restless Water’ is my favourite track. Shifting from sonic visions of a rainy Film Noir street made of blue brass notes, it moves smoothly to a sunrise of clàrsach swirls. The album is instrumental, but just over halfway through ‘The Violet Hour’, a very human voice or sample guides us through the piece with a ghostly air, kept low enough in the mix to be more comforting than haunting.
Each side ends with the two shortest tracks on the album. Side A ends with ‘Everywhere Something Sublime’ which, in context, almost sounds unfinished in its relative simplicity. ‘In Balgay Silhouettes’ is driven by the album’s most persistent, precise drums. There’s something unsettling in the melodies, suggesting the eponymous suburb is hosting more than meets the eye.
If you’re looking for a full-on soundtrack to lounging around, ‘Awoke in the Early Days of a Better World’ is the standout. Imagine the trumpet from the James Bond theme was supposed to give off a feeling of relaxation rather than suspense. 808-style percussion drops in and out of delay levels, further reclining the listener’s posture.
‘(Half-Light of) The Cadmium Moon’ begins with a simple piano motif joined by what is either a Theremin played by a ghost or a giant playing a tiny saw (do people still play saws with bows? Did they ever? Have I just misremembered this? Is this too many questions for one set of parentheses? Does music even exist if we can’t imagine it being made? What is love?) Anyway, other instruments join in for the last two minutes and it sails off somewhere with fewer tooth based tools and phantoms.
‘Black Bay Dream Minor’ is well-titled. Whether intentional or not, it’s a regretful look out at sea when everything on land is terrible. Andrew always takes his songs on journeys rather than through formulaic structures, but this maintains and wears its steady sadness throughout. So effective was it that it nearly ruined my day.
By the time ‘Lost Aglow’ gently blows its last windy trumpet note past you, there’s a feeling that, across the span of three albums’ worth of bewitching arrangements, you’ve journeyed through an assortment of gale-battered bays and uneven streets that have only ever appeared in the mind.
Like Wasylyk’s body of work before this, FLaToC isn’t for everyone, and anyone yearning for anything resembling a verse or a middle-eight is going to be looking elsewhere. There’s something more evocative going on in the way Andrew uses his intuitive musicality to build journey pieces that almost always end somewhere very unlike the place they started.
Still Life, Sweetheart is out now on Blackford Hill.
Fugitive Light and Themes of Consolation is out on 4th September via Athens of the North.