Caught by the River

Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls

Kirsteen McNish | 25th November 2022

‘Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls’, Andrew Wasylyk’s second LP for Clay Pipe Music, is out today. This is music of the places in between, and the hidden places within, writes Kirsteen McNish.

I first hit play on the album Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls at a particularly strange juncture in my life –  all was uncertain other than the mounting boxes, evolving around us like a strange,  life-size, beige Lego city as they were filled to move from the city to the foot of Dartmoor. Upon hearing the first notes a current of shivers ran through me, akin to a connection with a mountain looming in front of you on a walk, a stretch of ocean spied, glistening, in the distance, or the thrill of a connection with a new lover. 

‘Dreamt In The Current Of Leafless Winter’ swoops in; a journey across water where the cołd metallic bite of winter air smarts against your face, demanding complete immersion from the first few seconds to the end of its 8 minutes. Alabaster De Plume’s saxophone croons like yearning seabirds over cresting waves, and I am transported somewhere between Alice Coltrane and Keith Jarrett, the confluence of the North sea and the Atlantic ocean. Like looking at a painting, we bring to it what we hold inside, and I am also reminded of the paintings of Harald Solberg: crisp nights, skeleton trees, a bright north star.

‘Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls’ is luminous and myriad in its layers. It would be easy for me to say Wasylyk’s work is “cinematic” but it would be over-simplistic – it doesn’t reflect a scene as much as set it. I feel the opening of the track push through me, resonant like the stern of a new boat launching into cool waters, and I’m at its edges at night, trailing my hand through the phosphoresce. It’s triumphant, spiritual; tears prick against the back of my eyes as I lose myself in its rolling waves.

‘Years Beneath A Yarrow Moon’ has a patina that feels familiar, both melancholy and celebratory, and ‘The Confluence’ feels somehow steeped in orange and chocolate hues of 1970’s Super-8 footage, evoking memories of childhood and more innocent days – not quite real, and not quite there, silverfish and transient.

I pick up the album again a week after we arrive in our new house. A leak in the roof spreads pale blooms across the bedroom walls and loops off the thin wallpaper like pallid banana skins. The house feels unfamiliar; an unravelling ball of weather-worn string, me, a cat, whittling its ends. Nine moons have passed since I left the city. On the morning of the eclipse, smoky clouds speed past my window and listening to this beautifully hewn music feels like I’m opening the curtains again after a week spent consumed with the highs and lows of fevered dreams. I am, upon listening, sandwiched between night and morning, the city and the sea and a place that somehow exists entirely off the map.

There is a skein-like fragility to ‘The Life Of Time’, where the amber-soaked tones of Joshua Cooper snake artfully through the swell. It is sun flittering through tree branches, dancing shapes filtering through closed eyelids on a car journey. Cooper speaks of time’s passage and mortality, of the right now and imagined futures.

‘Truant In Gossamer’ is the track I instinctively turn up loud, and the hairs on my arm bristle as the vibraphone sends out lighthouse-like rays in a call and response to the shimmering oceanic harp and strings; a glittering spaceship landing.

I didn’t want to bring preconceived notions to this album, so I chose not to peer at the “read more” sleeve notes when it arrived in my inbox. Once I finished writing I discovered that the seed of this work was planted after “Andrew journeyed with Joshua Cooper to Inchcolm Island in the Firth of Forth to learn of the artist’s practice. Specifically, his three decades of travel across five continents, capturing cardinal points and extreme locations surrounding the Atlantic Ocean. Many of which will be under water within thirty-five years as a result of the impact of our changing climate” — which perhaps sheds light on the pervading sorrow, searching, and embracing of awe in the depths of this work. Wasylyk is artfully balancing on tectonic plates — the bearing down of climate change, new fatherhood — and surveying both scenes from his past and the long corridors beckoning change.

If one thing is certain it’s that this album is alive  forget background passive listening. It pulses, grows and takes flight, reminding us we are mere dots in the multiverse. This is music of the places in between, and the hidden places within. 

I walk with the tracks crisp and whirling in my headphones up the muddy pathway early morning, to stare across at the curvilinear fields up to Dartmoor and watch the long fingers of mist roll off the hills, gesturing toward winter. The music is crisp, oxygen-giving and elevating. This album envelops me, cloak-like, amongst the deluge and beauty of the past few weeks  — a soundtrack to the lightening brilliance of the storms and pink moons. 

This is music that rises, curls and dances like woodsmoke, whispers and takes root within – these are voyage songs, and Wasylyk the Skipper is masterfully at the helm.


‘Hearing The Water Before Seeing The Falls’ is out now. Buy a physical copy here, or digitally via Bandcamp.