“This gorgeous sonic tribute to the abandoned island of Vallay, where the artist’s grandmother once lived, is filled with folk memory and longing.”
— Jude Rogers / The Guardian, 'Folk Album of the Month'
'Searching Erskine' is a 12-track album that blurs the boundaries between ambient, modern-folk and contemporary classical, released with an accompanying book that responds to the uninhabited island of Vallay, which lies approximately two miles off the northwest coast of North Uist. On foot, it can only be accessed at low tide across vast tidal sands.
Initially released via Blackford Hill Audio as a 64-page book with digital download, the label will be producing a special edition that includes a short run of lathe-cut 7” vinyl singles. Later in 2022, the album will be released on 12” vinyl.
'Searching Erskine' is the result of the channelling of voices, original music, oral histories, spectral sounds, and field recordings from the island.This is a project about ruins, land, memory, and the intersections in between.
“Arun’s new record traces the story of his ancestry back to the island, and he does it with fragments of memories spoken and images conjured through sound and field recordings, strings and electronics and tape loops that ebb and swirl like the tide.”
— Elizabeth Alker / Unclassified / BBC Radio 3
In 1905, antiquarian, industrialist, and pioneering archaeologist Erskine Beveridge built a Georgian mansion on Vallay in order to excavate prehistoric duns and finish his book North Uist. The mansion gradually fell into disrepair after Erskine’s son, George Beveridge, drowned in 1944 while crossing the tidal strand, leaving no heir nor work for the small population of crofters, groundsmen, and housekeepers who departed the island shortly after.
Arun’s grandmother (gaga), Katie MacNaughton, was one of the last islanders to leave, and these song tapestries locate his family story in a palimpsest of cultural, natural, and historical layers that comprise the now uninhabited island.
The 64-page book features visual artwork from artists Emile Kees, Rosalind Blake and Meg Rodger. These sit alongside Arun’s introductory essay, poems and extensive notes exploring the making of the album, which features contributions from musicians including Rachel Sermanni (guitar and vocals), Alastair Smith (synths, organs, tape loops and sonifications) and Alice Allen (cello).
An exhibition of the artworks featured in the book and a new sound installation and film by Arun will run at the Taigh Chearsabhagh Arts Centre in Lochmaddy, North Uist, from March until May 2022.