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A Man and His Dog Through the Four Seasons – by Ally Forsyth

📷 Photo above by Jonathan Bismark Digital Artist

Myself and the dog are out stomping the pavements and parks every morning at 8am. I’m a creature of habit, and he’s a creature of sniffing every dog and lamppost we pass. Whether it’s raining, snowing, sunny, or Storm Arwen, we’ll be trudging our way through Rouken Glen with a podcast and a tennis ball. I’ll leave it to you to decide who’s doing what.

But it’s given me a unique opportunity; to acutely observe the day to day changing of the seasons twice a day, 365 days a year. I know that it’s the November 6th by the lingering smell of stale gunpowder and charred wood; I know the 6th years have finished high school by the empties and leftover bonfires in late April; I know which trees are at risk of being blown down in the next storm and which ones will survive the next storm. And the music changes too. Songs of hope, optimism and anticipation give way to songs of joy, party, gathering and travel. Songs of preparation, harvest and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” give way to songs of hibernation, cold and isolation.

Throughout 2022 I’m creating four EPs, each one depicting a season and reflecting on the specifics and nuances that it brings.

Spring is where I began my exploration into the macro and micro changes that happen, nearly always without noticing. “On The Turn” emerges from silence to a homemade choir of 30 voices, breathing life into the landscape, standing and stretching for the first time in a long time, and taking stock of the year that could be. A felt piano is the only instrument.

“When The World Is Waking” is a melody of industry, working its way from a building, growing, climbing B part back to the queen bee of an A part, to begin the cycle again. I rarely get a musical “first” anymore, but I played power chords on an electric guitar in the bridge! Chris Waite plays whistles throughout, and the warm timbre it brings defrosts the cold surroundings of the treated piano that comes before it.

“The Drovers’ Road from Logie” is a song set in the spring cattle droving of the 1800s. But it’s more than just the tale of a crofter’s undesired travel to the city. It’s about the connection to the landscape around you, easily found in rural landscapes, which gets lost in a concrete jungle of bin collections, Starbucks and financial districts. Calum McIlroy shreds the kind of mandolin solo that you can’t help but break into a grin hearing, and in his hands, it glues so much of the track together.

Digging into what defines a season musically doesn’t end with the music and lyrics. The soundscape and recording process evolves and adapts, too, reflecting the world around it as the songs are written and recorded in real-time. Over the last 18 months, I’ve invested in some fairly standard recording equipment, accumulated too many sound libraries (Spitfire Labs, you beauty!) and watched far too many YouTube tutorials, but it gives me a chance to explore what a season sounds like to my ear, and within three songs, move that season on to the next instalment.

This blog is coming out in May, and “Summer” is only half-written. Now the morning dog walk sees me searching for the changes from the day and week before. Recording and mixing each track allows me to explore the sound created at source – and how it can be manipulated and contorted to work in tandem with other aspects of the track. In the same way, the first flowers of spring emerge at source but work in tandem when bugs and bees come along and pollinate.

Collaboration is also at the heart of this project. Technically, we could get through the year on our own and in isolation, but we now know from experience how grim that can really be. So joining me throughout the year will be a whole host of musical friends, doing what friends do; meeting up, spending time together and brightening up a time where spent alone simply wouldn’t be the same.

You’ve already heard two of them on “Spring”, and the next three instalments will be very exciting. I’m also collaborating visually with my good friend, architect and digital artist, Jonathan Bismark. He created the artwork for my debut EP “The Longest Night”, and we’re collaborating again over the next year on these releases. Jonathan is creating four bespoke images of the same subject, each depicting a different time of year. These will visually capture what I’m looking to capture sonically, and with the image for “Summer” sent over last week, he’s only gone and outdone himself again.

Summer 2022 is going to be a party. The last two summers have been relatively restrictive, and with the return of so many key landmarks of the season, this season will be joyous, bright and full of adventure. The music will be too.

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Spring by Ally Forsyth is available now on bandcamp.