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Andrew Wasylyk
Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls Arusa Qureshi , November 25th, 2022 07:59

The Scottish composer creates landscapes to get lost in, finds Arusa Qureshi

There’s a clear sense of place in Andrew Wasylyk’s work. The musician’s surroundings – landscape, coast and architecture – are often a source of inspiration for compositions that have the power to transport. In his latest record, Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls, Wasylyk once again traverses similar vistas, but instead of only physical environments, he also uses the album to respond to the work and practice of American contemporary landscape photographer Thomas Joshua Cooper. The result is a body of work that is sublime in its overall presentation.

In the sixteen-minute sprawling opener ‘Dreamt In The Current Of Leafless Winter’, Wasylyk paints an evocative scene that is coloured by the additional purr of a saxophone. It’s woozy, gently reverberating around the methodical notes of the piano, bass and steady heartbeat-like drum, with the track eventually fading out and leaving the lone wail of the sax and some inconspicuous twinkling beneath.

The title track follows, its lush and pounding piano chords accompanied by the delicate vibrato of strings. It provides an entrancing contrast as the instrumentation builds and then suddenly dies down, encapsulating the movement of water, as in the title. As on Wasylyk’s previous albums, Pete Harvey (of Modern Studies) once again takes the reins when it comes to the strings, which are intricate and expressive all the way through. On the slightly sinister ‘Years Beneath A Yarrow Moon’, for example, they’re luscious, with beautifully bowed legato and an occasional touch of tremolo. Meanwhile, the syncopated swing of the drum on ‘The Confluence’ adds a jazzier quality to the track, providing a suitably weighty base for Harvey’s grandiose string arrangements.

‘Dusk Above Delphinium Dew’ is a slow-moving and atmospheric number, with a measured backdrop that allows you to sink fully into the song’s velvety, undulating orchestration. Likewise, the repetitive piano motif of ‘The Life Of Time’ pulls you in close, before you’re introduced to words and narration by Cooper himself, which have a meditative effect. By the end of the record and closing track ‘Truant In Gossamer’, it’s hard not to feel engrossed in the otherworldliness of it all, yet at the same time, the journey feels familiar. While ‘Truant In Gossamer’ offers a hint of melancholy on which to end, there’s also a hopeful tone, especially in the yearning farewell of the final notes of the vibraphone.

Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls is an album that deserves time and attention because of the overall sense of wonder you’re left with after each track. As is the case with Wasylyk’s previous releases, allowing yourself to be lost in its layers of musicality and opulent soundscapes is both worthwhile and highly recommended.