Lead single Long Exposure, out today, is indicative of the albums fragile beauty and is, says Allison, “One of the first songs I wrote on ukulele. Last March I picked up the instrument and started composing, the fact I don’t play the ukulele was very freeing and I had to compose purely by ear, constructing my own chord clusters.”
Framed by a backdrop of exquisitely sparse and intoxicating dream-folk, ‘Heart-Shaped Scars’ is Allison’s most personal record to date. It gathers many threads of Allison’s interests – music, literature, science and nature. “I wanted it to be comforting like a familiar in-utero heartbeat, a pure kind of album that musically imbues a return to nature,” she explains.
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 Zoe Bestel, “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 – Kevin 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.”
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
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