PAUL McGeechan is pondering how best to describe the lush, late night mood of his first solo project.

“I don’t know if it’s a depressing record, but I don’t know if it’s the most uplifting either,” he concludes with a chuckle. “I think it’s somewhere in between.”

The Love & Money keyboard player has spent the past two years working on Starless. Featuring contributions from, among others, Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile, Julie Fowlis, Capercaillie’s Karen Matheson and the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Starless is an atmospheric collection of songs, shot through with the kind of melancholic romanticism familiar to fans of the Cocteau Twins, Peter Gabriel, the Blue Nile and David Sylvian.

It’s been a long time coming. McGeechan has been making music since the early 80s, first as part of Glasgow new-wavers Friends Again, then with Love & Money. When the latter split in 1994, McGeechan turned to production. “I moved away from writing and recording, but a few years ago I began dabbling again. The focus was on me having a creative outlet again.”

Part of the impetus was the reformation of Love & Money for a Celtic Connections concert in 2011. The band stayed together long enough to make a new album, The Devil’s Debt, the following year. “That was an interesting period for me, because I was more involved in it artistically than I had been for some time,” he says. “It renewed my focus, and I went into a writing period. I kept developing the songs until I had a stronger theme, and then I started getting in touch with other artists.”

Despite the calibre of the collaborators on Starless, McGeechan concedes that “I didn’t get everyone on the wish list.” The Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser and Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn were among the ones that got away.

“Paul Buchanan and Liz Fraser were the two people where I thought, Well, at least I’m going to try!” he says. “We tried a year for Liz and we got very close, but... maybe next time. As it is I think I’ve been very lucky to get who I have. Getting Paul was fantastic. His voice really carries the narrative of that song, it just seems to work.”

“It was nice to get asked,” says Buchanan, the former Blue Nile singer, who imbues the title track with layers of longing. “Also, it’s nice for me to do something where I didn’t have to think about anything else but singing. I went out to Paul’s house and we played with the song, and then I popped in one morning to the studio and just did it. It’s such a lovely track.”

The oldest song on the record, co-written by McGeechan and the late Scottish musician Bobby Henry, its musical cues and lyrical themes – “In a starless sky, one shutdown moon / Here in this city, we fall in love too soon” – have a distinct whiff of peak-period Blue Nile.

“Maybe there was a wee halfway thing there,” acknowledges Buchanan. “I could certainly see where it was going. You try to meet each other, in terms of understanding, but Paul was in charge and I wanted to deliver what he wanted.” He sang his part during a break from recording a new solo record, which is near completion. In contrast to the sparse abstraction of 2012’s Mid Air, Buchanan promises drily that it will be “my comedy record, the one we’ve all been waiting for”. He’s hopeful it will be ready for release next year.

Two other songs on Starless are sung in Gaelic by Julie Fowlis and Karen Matheson.

“I’ve worked with a lot of Gaelic artists over the years, which isn’t my background at all,” says McGeechan. “I just love the emotional impact of that singing. I’ve worked with Julie for just over a decade, and I think she enjoyed doing something that was quite different to her own records. Same with Karen.”

McGeechan wrote and recorded the tracks in the barn studio at his farmhouse in Bothwell, adding vocal parts in various Glasgow studios. The strings were then recorded in a thrilling four-hour session in Prague with the city’s Philharmonic. “It was overwhelming in terms of both excitement and trepidation,” he says. “The realisation that it was down to me, that I had to make the decisions. I hadn’t been in that position before at that level.” The orchestrations serve to unify the disparate songs and voices, while an underlying lyrical theme on the record “is the sense of belonging – in reference to land, love, whatever. I think that also helps pull the songs together.”

It’s an ambitious project, beautifully realised, and despite the obvious practical challenges, McGeechan would love to bring it to a Scottish stage at some point in the near future. “Perhaps at Spree or Celtic Connections. Tying in with an existing event would be ideal. The intention is at some point to realise that.”

And what of his fondly remembered former band? “You can never say never,” he says. “James [Grant’s] solo career is going very well, he’s very busy with projects. I can’t see anything in the next year or so, but you never know. Whatever happens, there’s a great attachment to that work. I look back on my career very happily. I don’t think I would change a heck of a lot.”

Starless is released on May 27 on Marina Records.