Release Date 07/30/2021
(SA Recordings) NACC
Dot Allison will always be identified with the band that initially launched her, One Dove, whose Andy Weatherall-produced album Morning Dove White became a downbeat electronic landmark, but her own albums and collaborations amount to a much more significant body of work, with a commanding range across genres and narrative ambition. “The records that I have made were more like a window into my world,” she says. None more so than her first album in 12 years, out today — Heart-Shaped Scars. Tranquil in sound and passionate in spirit it’s Allison’s most personal record yet. Framed by a backdrop of exquisitely sparse and intoxicating dream-folk and Allison’s vocal at its most ethereal, the album is, she reveals about “Love, loss and a universal longing for union that seems to go with the human condition.”
Heart-Shaped Scars gathers many threads of Allison’s broad interests – not just musical but literary, philosophical & her interest in science and nature. 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.
Dot sees certain flowers almost like visual metaphors for certain organs that all species share. Through out the album she references plants, the seasons, flowers, fertility, cyclical patterns and a haunting that may follow a decay & some dark visceral imagery, all evoking 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.”
Recorded at Castlesound Studios in Edinburgh - Dot’s home town, the album is produced by Allison alongside Fiona Cruickshank. Recent Mercury Prize nominee Hannah Peel adds string arrangements to four songs that accompany Dot’s imaginative lyrics, courtesy of a quintet of Scottish folk musicians.
On the album Allison not only oversees all vocal arrangements, she plays ukulele, piano, 12 string guitar, mellotron, keyboards, hubble kalimba & Phone-Home Xylophone, Treated Keys & Harmonium. 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 on ‘The Haunted’), “sharing ideas and passing instruments between us all, amongst friends and the island community,” says Allison. “It’s where I first sang the album’s first single ‘Long Exposure’ in public at a folk house-concert. It’s the first song Dot wrote on a ukulele.The sessions also include a collaboration with singer songwriter Zoë Bestel. Dot wrote a poem about a love ending with the metaphor of autumn decaying into winter. During that songwriting session she pulled the poem up and they harvested it very heavily for imagery and turned it into the albums’ second single, ‘Can You Hear Nature Sing?’
The album’s third single, ‘One Love’ is a song about someone feeling unsure in a relationship, needing reassurance. The flower metaphors are rare flowers used to signify a rare, precious, all encompassing love. Blood Camellia suggests flesh, veins and a pulse, Fire Lilies imbue a sense of passion and Juliette Rose seems to hint at Shakespeare,“she adds. A video for this single directed by PJ Harvey’s longtime visual collaborator Maria Mochnacz will soon follow.
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.
During the years Dot has collaborated with a variety of musicians including My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, The Bad Seeds, Scott Walker (Sunn O))), Richard Fearless, Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre, Hal David, Paul Weller and 3D with Massive Attack who says Dot Has a voice like honey.
On Heart-Shaped Scars Allison mines a deeply emotive seam. "To me, music is a sort of tonic or an antidote to a kind of longing, for a while at least,” she concludes.