Recorded in lockdown in Edinburgh with co-producer Fiona Cruickshank, this is former One Dove singer Dot Allison’s seventh album, one which comes after a twelve year hiatus.
Having cut her teeth with the post-ecstasy band, she’s cast her musical net wider in recent years, collaborating with the likes of Death In Vegas, Massive Attack and Pete Doherty(!)
This album is very much the antithesis of hedonism though, more a bucolic stride through folk music – with strings from celebrated Northern Irish composer/musician Hannah Peel featuring heavily on four of the tracks.
Lyrics focus on life, transience, nature, death and war, and there’s a real sense of intimacy here, with Allison’s breathy vocals reminiscent of cult Scottish hippy folk singer Vashti Bunyan. This is both a blessing and curse, as there’s an unfortunate tweeness to some of the songs. Long Exposure and Can You Hear Nature Sing? in particular make me long for her neon-lit collaborations again. Sometimes, it’s impossible not to think of Bill Bailey’s hilariously scathing riff on wispy female singers with acoustic guitars.
It’s the more doomy side that feels more weighty and seductive, running counter to the whimsical idyllic sonics. Love Died In Our Arms flirts with electronic pulses, falling somewhere between lullaby and incantation. Goodbye is more minimal, exposed and human. The finest – and fiercest – moment can be found in The Haunted, with Allison’s vocals in a lower register and elegiac strings which are moving rather than cloying.
Some flaws here then, but Heart Shaped Scars is clearly at its strongest when Allison takes a scythe to the golden wheat fields.