(Tape Club Records, out 28 Apr 2017 on cassette, CD and digital)
The alias of Scottish writer, producer, instrumentalist and multiple plate-spinner Andrew Mitchell, the moniker Wasylyk derives from his actual birth name, gifted to him by his Ukrainian grandfather. As well as providing Mitchell with a more unique stage (not to mention web domain!) name, his Ukrainian heritage was the font of inspiration for debut album Soroky, so called for the small town in which his grandfather grew up. With his second offering Themes for Buildings and Spaces, Mitchell swivels the spotlight onto his own hometown of Dundee, creating an instrumental album with eight tracks inspired by different landmarks around the city.
One can only imagine that Dundee’s comparatively large population and bustling history as an industrial hotspot means that it would seem a veritable metropolis in comparison to Soroky, which Google reckons boasts a diminutive populace of just 15,000 people. It’s interesting, then, that Wasylyk’s second record is far more sparsely and simply arranged than his first, with the removal of vocals and the minimalism of the melodies paring back the sound significantly. We’re treated to a delicate ramble around the city’s soundscape, visiting not only architectural areas of interest in geographical space but also in time as we explore the city’s heritage.
Opener Drift is paired with historical footage of Jute Mill workers enjoying a communal holiday on the album’s first video release, with the song being dominated by oscillating pianowork and intermittent interjections from the brass section. Under High Blue Skies, an apparent celebration of the city’s Brutalist architecture, follows with a backbeat reminiscent of Moby and an overall ambience that wouldn’t be out of place on a Pure Moods album. Via Crucis, Come the Autumn and Lowe Dens Works continue this pleasantly plodding place, with the overlaid percussion on the latter providing perhaps the album’s enduring cadence.
Sandwiched in between these is the jarring Ghosts of Park Place, comprised of eerie reverberations and the schoolyard echoes of generations presumably long dead – or, perhaps, Wasylyk’s own childhood; either way, J. A. Bayona would probably approve. This eeriness is echoed by final track The Howff, another ode to the deceased which stands out with particular minimalism through its reverb and percussion work. These two tracks aside, the album suffers slightly from a sheen of saminess, as the meandering pianowork and supporting brass, percussion and strings – although expertly arranged and melodically pleasant – waltz from one track to the next with little in the way of differentiation. All the same, it’s an intriguing introduction to the city and one which at best will prompt listeners to investigate the place names further, or at worst serve as an ideal soundtrack to study.
Having featured as part of a number of bands over recent years (including Idlewild, The Hazey Janes and Art of the Memory Palace), Wasylyk demonstrates his versatility once again with this release, branching into instrumental territory with ability and assurance. With his fingers in such a wide variety of pies, fans will no doubt be able to witness the man in one guise or another over the coming months, though no solo concerts are in the pipeline as yet. But if Wasylyk isn’t coming to you soon, at least his city is through the gently moving lullabies on Themes for Buildings and Spaces.