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Fugitive Light And Themes Of Consolation is the third in a trio of records by Andrew Wasylyk which unearth and reshape the landscape of Eastern Scotland as shimmering and inventive instrumental music. Where Themes for Buildings and Spaces (2017) toured the architecture and industry of Dundee, evoking a place caught between decay and regrowth, the Scottish Album of the Year Award shortlisted The Paralian (2019) explored the littoral exchanges between sea and shore on the North Sea coastline.
Fugitive Light And Themes Of Consolation carries a trace of this arc on a return upriver, drifting back inland along the River Tay's inner estuary: a record of the low light on winter fields, empty suburban streets at dawn, the deep clear waters of the quarry excavated to build the city. Ten songs circling landscapes for meaning, channelling half-heard melodies and misremembered memories; caught somewhere between settling down and setting out towards the shining levels of the estuary and beyond.
The record is threaded with the influences of people, place and musical lineages – David Axelrod, John Barry, Virginia Astley, Mark Hollis, Alice Coltrane – yet as with all of Andrew's solo work it has a deft, clear voice all of its own. Recorded between Summer 2019 and January 2020, Fugitive Light… displays his talent as a multi-instrumentalist and composer: all hushed drum grooves, rolling waves of plucked acoustic guitar, cascading upright piano, Bob James-inspired Fender Rhodes, rippling clàrsach harp, and ECM-worthy electric guitar motifs. As on The Paralian, string arrangements are by fellow Tayside musician Pete Harvey, known for his work with King Creosote, Modern Studies and The National Theatre of Scotland.
This is a record scored through with patterns of light: the song titles evoke last sunbeams, the fugitive light of water, the violet hour of autumn, cemetery silhouettes, and the half-light of the moon; the arrangements aglow with subtle shifts of texture and refractions of melody. Fugitive Light… is an atmospheric (in both the sonic and elemental sense) evocation of the ebb of the world, something that Andrew describes as, "simultaneously about knowing loss and accepting love, the optimistic and the downhearted, where the lightness and dark gather together."
Andrew has a knack for writing melodies that seem at once timeless yet entirely individual: emerging somewhere between spiritual jazz, neo-classical and library music, diffracted by the blues and greys of the wide Tay firth. The instrumentation has a soft-focus glow of its own: piano keys gently pressed, the metronomic click of analogue drum machines, the well and wash of strings and brass, a singing saw whirring into the heavens. Fugitive Light And Themes Of Consolation is another Wasylyk song-cycle wonder; a wander through glimmering internal and external landscapes.
Barry says: Despite the times we live in, there remain beacons of musical light in an otherwise shadowy world. It's my hope that people will hear Andrew Wasylyk's latest outing and like me, be taken away on a dreamlike bed of carefree strings and soaring plucked harps. On his second album for Athens Of The North, Andrew takes the sound of his previous album, 'The Paralian' and injects those stories with a little more of everything, more ambient joy, more curative groove and more heart. As the equal and opposite to this, we get the meditative lows and mournful minor-key intersections that make the bliss seem all the more profound.
For the soaring, sun-dappled morning of “Last Sunbeams Of Childhood” we get a thoughtful and pensive “In Balgay Silhouettes”. It's this sense of balance that really sets this music apart, with elements of jazz and folk tempered by an ambient leaning persuasion akin to the sleeper Prefab Sprout hit of 2003/2019, ‘I Trawl The Megahertz’. It's no easy feat to take in all this breadth of sound and to make it your own, but ‘Fugitive Light And Themes Of Consolation’ couldn't have seemed any more effortless, with restful interludes and seismic emotional shifts taking place seamlessly in the blink of an eye. It's an organically growing whole, cohesive and emotional without being overblown or pretentious. A true treasure.
1 A Further Look At Loss
2 Last Sunbeams Of Childhood
3 Fugitive Light Restless Water
4 The Violet Hour
5 Everywhere Something Sublime
6 In Balgay Silhouettes
7 Awoke In The Early Days Of A Better World
8 (Half-light Of) The Cadmium Moo
9 Black Bay Dream Minor
10 Lost, Aglow