ALBUM REVIEW: Dot Allison - Consciousology
Love shines through on psych-electro-folk album by the Scottish singer-songwriter
Veering from more accessible folk songs to psych-heavy arrangements and an electronic instrumental at the halfway stage, Consciousology, the sixth album from Dot Allison, is not the easiest LP to navigate.
Featuring electric activity in a plant translated into several pitches on ‘Double Rainbow’, a song title intentionally chosen as it’s the frequency at which tree roots communicate beneath the ground (‘220Hz’) and hazy vocals at times which are almost impenetrable, the album is high concept in both its conception and delivery.
What is undeniable, however, is the thematic core driving Consciousology, evident in the inspiration behind it and the vocals which do permeate the sometimes opaque tracks: love. Dedicated to Dot’s musician mother and botanist father, the influence of the latter a massive presence in the song titles, love in all its variations, both positive and negative, shine through the album.
With contributions from the London Contemporary Orchestra, Andy Bell of Ride and Mercury Prize-nominated Hannah Peel, the songs are lifted from their folk roots into something more intricate and rewarding.
‘Shyness of Crowns’ features driving acoustic guitar elevated by a majestic string section similar in vein to Nick Drake’s ‘Bryter Layter’ with electronic splashes and ethereal singing by Allison. ‘Bleached by the Sun’ could be a 7ebra song with its hushed, layered vocals and its few refrains such as ‘don’t give up on me yet, there is more we can be’ and ‘all of these words come to be bleached by the sun’ building into something quite lovely. ‘Moon Flowers’ carries a warm, lilting acoustic guitar tune and emotive, positive lyrics (‘don’t give up’; ‘you’ll get there soon’).
The standout track of the album is single, ‘Unchanged’, about grieving lost love while the other person seems unaffected. The song’s epic chorus with its distinctive key change is beefed up on later uses with electric guitar as the song’s slow beauty enraptures the listener.
Plonked in the middle of the album is the Anna Meredith-sounding ‘220Hz’, full of menace and a spacey electronic instrumental. After a stunning start with the first four tracks, it’s a nice interlude but the quality dips a little afterwards save for closer, ‘Weeping Roses’ – the album’s sparest song which recalls Allison being given a mix tape given by Andrew Weatherall – a renowned producer and DJ who passed away in 2020.
‘Milk and Honey’ lists food in the chorus much like Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’ and has Allison singing ‘I’d walk 10,000 suns to have you back next to me’. ‘Mother Tree’ sees Allison beg the subject of the song to ‘come to me’ over carefully plucked guitar, while ‘Double Rainbow’ is the strangest of the nine songs, with its plant activity and switches from acoustic guitar and piano to electronic music as the track meanders intriguingly for over six minutes.
Consciousology is challenging, yet rewarding, requiring the listener to put the effort in to reveal the beauty of the record – an endeavour well worth undertaking.
Consciousology is out on Friday (28 July) via Sonic Cathedral