After the haunting lead single Long Exposure heralded the release of Heart-Shaped Scars – Allison’s first album in 12 years and her most personal to date – Dot Allison unveils another new single and lyric video, ‘Can You Hear Nature Sing?’, out today on SA Recordings. With Allison’s vocals at its most ethereal, the single is tranquil in sound and passionate in spirit.
‘Can You Hear Nature Sing?’ originated from a poem written by Dot after her friend and poet Stuart McKenzie recommended some of his favourite poets.“On reading some of the work I wanted to use my immediate natural environment to write a poem” Dot explains. The result was ‘Emblems’ set in an autumn landscape. Later, when Dot and Zoë Bestel decided to write a duet for the new album Dot suggested ‘Emblems’ as “a starting point for the lyrics” As it transpired it proved fundamental in shaping ‘Can You Hear Nature Sing?’, providing much of the lyrical content.
Premiering on Big Takeover today, they describe that “In the video, antique gold-colored lyrics unfurl on the screen against a sage green backdrop, and various natural designs appear and then fade away in keeping with the subject of the lyrics. When Allison sings of “autumn’s touch” an oak leaf floats to the ground, and on the harmonizing chorus of “a myriad of melodies”, various plants spring to life, growing, budding, and blossoming. The images weave a visually bucolic spell that mirrors the intent of the music”. They continue “Allison’s emotions are clarified and delicately rise to the surface as she imbues a wistful longing to the versus (“hollowed seed/occasional thorn…”) and a bittersweet wryness on the chorus secions”.
Dot’s interests in music, literature, science and nature are integral to Heart-Shaped Scars overall aesthetic. It’s backdrop of exquisitely sparse and intoxicating dream-folk evokes Dot’s vision for “a pure kind of album that musically imbues a return to nature. I wanted it to be comforting like a familiar in-utero heartbeat.”
The album is produced by Allison alongside Fiona Cruickshank, with Hannah Peel adding string arrangements to four songs, courtesy of a quintet of Scottish folk musicians. Recorded at Castlesound Studios in Edinburgh – Dot’s home town – the sessions include new collaborations with singer songwriters Amy Bowman “The Haunted” and Zoë Bestel on new single “Can You Hear Nature Sing?”
Field recordings of birdsong, rivers and the ambience of The Hebrides – where Dot has a cottage – also played their part. A location for gatherings amongst folk musician pals (Sarah Campbell and Amy Bowman included), “sharing ideas and passing instruments between us all, amongst friends and the island community,” says Allison. “It’s where I first sang ‘Long Exposure’ in public at a folk house-concert. So, I can definitely hear some of the Hebrides in ‘Heart-Shaped Scars’.
The influence of folk-minded artists in her record collection, such as Karen Dalton, Gene Clark, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Nick Drake, and Brian Wilson are evident but most poignantly is the late Andy Weatherall. Weatherall produced Morning Dove White, the album that launched Dot’s career with the band One Dove and who “championed, signed and mentored me… I hear his influence throughout all of my albums.”
Since 1999’s Afterglow, Allison has striven to “keep the listener on a journey – and myself too.” That journey has taken her from Afterglow’s broad church (trip-hop, Tim Buckley-esque ballads, chilled psychedelia) to the sultry synth-pop of We Are Science (2002), the baroque Exaltation of Larks (2007) and the roots drama of Room 7½ (2009). She’s worked with an extraordinary roll call of talent – Kein Shields, Hal David, Paul Weller, Pete Doherty and Darren Emerson, Massive Attack Scott Walker, Slam, Philip Shepard, The Babyshambles & Pete Doherty, underlining the huge respect her peers hold her in.
On Heart-Shaped Scars Allison mines a deeply emotive seam. “Love, loss and a universal longing for union that seems to go with the human condition. To me, music is a sort of tonic or an antidote to a kind of longing, for a while at least.”
Heart-Shaped Scars – Track List:
1. Long Exposure
2. The Haunted
4. Can You Hear Nature Sing?
5. Ghost Orchid
7. Forever’s Not Much Time
8. Cue The Tears
9. One Love
10. Love Died In Our Arms
Since her debut solo album Afterglow in 1999, Allison has strived to, keep the listener on a journey – and herself too. She revolts against what she has done before, to evolve and not just occupy the same space. That journey has taken her from Afterglow’s broad church (trip-hop, Tim Buckley-esque ballads, dance tracks, chilled psychedelia) to the sultry synth-pop of We Are Science (2002), the lush, baroque Exaltation Of Larks (2007) and the eclectic, rootsy drama of Room 7½ (2009). The range of guest stars on Allison’s records is equally broad: where else would you find a cast list that includes Kevin Shields, Hal David, Paul Weller, Pete Doherty and Darren Emerson. Likewise, Allison’s own guest roles with the likes of Massive Attack, Scott Walker, Slam, Philip Shepard, The Babyshambles & Pete Doherty, underlining the huge respect her peers hold her in.
Allison also hears elements of The Wicker Man film soundtrack (she once sung ‘Gently Johnny’ at Glastonbury) and the influence of folk-minded artists in her record collection, such as Linda Perhacs, Karen Dalton, Gene Clark, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Nick Drake, Opal, Mazzy Star, Brian Wilson and, most poignantly, the late Andy Weatherall. “Andy championed, signed and mentored me,” she says. “He gave me so many compilations that broadened my musical tastes… I hear his influence throughout all of my albums.”
Heart-Shaped Scars may have the richness and metaphorical depth of poetry but it’s balanced out by classic tropes of singer-songwriters through the ages. The sentiments behind ‘Cue The Tears’, ‘Love Died In Our Arms’ and ‘Goodbye’ are direct appeals from the heart; melodically too, they chime with torch-singing and soul traditions. Allison’s father was a botanist, and her mother a musician; eventually, the DNA of music took this former bio-chemistry student in a very different direction – and with good reason too. “To me, music is a sort of tonic or an antidote to a kind of longing, for a while at least,” she concludes.
Heart-Shaped Scars has that very same impact: an antidote to stress, a beautiful, restorative and inspiring balm for these times.