Showcase: Andrew Wasylyk’s The Paralian

Created during an artistic residency at Hospitalfield house, Dundonian musician, Andrew Wasylyk’s, third full-length album The Paralian creates a soundscape evocative of the Angus coastline which inspired it. The album showcases Wasylyk’s skills as a multi-instrumentalist and with sounds ranging from the harp to the synth, it is also an album which powerfully links contemporary Scottish music to its cultural roots. The Paralian should be considered Wasylyk’s most ambitious album to date, and it is being released on independent, Edinburgh based label, Athens of the North. This is an unprecedented release for the label and a promising endorsement for The Paralian.

In anticipation of the album’s release on 1 February Wasylyk has lined up three live performances across Scotland. The first of these taking place on 30 January at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh. The relaxed and intimate tone of the album launch is set by Wasylyk greeting the audience as they enter into the ballroom, which inside is dark and packed with people. The stage is barely able to contain the multitude of instruments required for the performance; cello, double bass and trombone to name a few. The opening set from Firecracker Recording’s Other Lands uses modulated electric guitar and echoing vocals to create otherworldly ambient sounds. This is swiftly followed by Scotland’s former Makar, Liz Lochhead with a poetry recital focusing on music and memory delivered in a distinctly Scottish vernacular. Soon, eight musicians pack onto the stage, with Wasylyk being front and centre, surrounded by three keyboards.

Amongst his ensemble is Modern Studies’ exceptionally talented cellist Pete Harvey, the creator of most of the string arrangements heard on the album. The performance opens with ‘Through the Field beyond the Trees lies the Ocean,’ one of the more ambient tracks on the album. It features field recordings of trickling water, seabirds, and footsteps. This track, Wasylyk tells the audience, was inspired by his journey from Hospitalfield house to the Angus coastline: one which he made regularly. The second track ‘Greendrive #2’ builds up layers of overlapping melodies atop the mystical sound of the harp, its steady lethargic drum beat setting the relaxed pace of the album, while ethereal shimmering strings give a sense of impending discovery. The next song, ‘Journey to Inchcape’ was inspired by a day trip to the Bell Rock lighthouse, Wasylyk explains.

The track opens with ominous deep bass giving way to a flute melody evocative of the Scottish coastline’s folklore laden past. ‘Flight of the Cormorant’ denotes a thematic shift from land to air, as the pace quickens. Wasylyk discusses how in Medieval Scotland the Cormorant was thought to be a symbol of the cross and Hospitalfield house’s Erard Grecian harp helps provide this spiritual air to the piece. The audience sits in reverent silence throughout the performance. The skill of the musicians on stage is second only to Wasylyk’s ability to subtly weave together each musical element into the vast and inspiring soundscape that is The Paralian. It is perhaps from Wasylyk’s evident understanding of Scottish history that he is able to craft an album so intensely reminiscent of the past. Mournful strings seem to lament the passing of a bygone way of life on the Scottish coast. However, the album is in no way antiquated, it is contemporary and innovative which explains why it is being released by a record label more associated with disco than ambient jazz.

The album has an ability to transport its listener to a particular time and place: something which has seldom been achieved with such efficacy since the father of ambient music himself, Brian Eno. It is this dichotomy between past and present, traditional and contemporary, harp and synth, which defines The Paralian and also explains why the audience in the ballroom ranged from 18 to 80.

Image: Hannah Robinson

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