“TO BE a good writer, to make your own music, you have to be a great listener.” So says Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy in his recent memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). “That’s more of a special attribute than having a lightning-fast faculty on the guitar.”

Hunched forward over an espresso and water in a Glasgow hotel, fresh off the early morning train from his native Dundee, Andrew Wasylyk concurs. “I’m a much better listener than I am a musician,” he says, “and I’m OK with that.” He smiles and fidgets with his hands.

In 2012 Wasylyk supported Wilco on tour in Europe with his band The Hazey Janes, who also include Alice and Matthew Marra, the children of Dundonian songwriter and musician Michael Marra. “Jeff Tweedy talks a lot about not getting in the way of a song, and I feel like that,” says Wasylyk. “I’m a scatter brain. I’ve got an anxious mind and having a hundred thoughts a minute sometimes infiltrates the music. There’s always a lot of melody darting in and out of the music, which is fine as long as you can control it.”

Restraint and an expert ear are writ large over the multi-instrumentalist’s shimmering solo album The Paralian, which follows 2017’s equally mesmerising 10-inch EP cum mini-album Themes for Buildings and Spaces, the results of a commission by NEoN digital arts festival to create music for a walking tour of Dundee.

Like Themes, The Paralian is an exceptionally mellifluous brew of jazz-tinged chords, muted rhythms, sublime string, brass and woodwind arrangements and haunting melodies, recalling the psychedelic soul of David Axelrod, the soundtracks of Ennio Morricone and the folk-inflected inquiries of Robert Wyatt. More recent comparisons that withstand scrutiny are the work of American polymath Jim O’Rourke and Scottish jazz outsider Bill Wells. “It comes from not being a jazz player and not really knowing what I’m doing,” says Wasylyk, breaking into a half-smile. “I’m feeling around in the dark.”

The lissom music that makes up The Paralian – nine-tenths of which is instrumental, with Wasylyk delivering a solitary, delicately tremulous vocal on the penultimate Adrift Below a Constellation – began life in a similar manner to its predecessor. Staff at the arts organisation and historic house Hospitalfield, on the south-western fringes of Arbroath, had heard Themes and invited Wasylyk to compose music for their recently restored Grecian harp, made by the French harp maker Sebastian Erard in the 19th century.

“It belonged to the house’s original owners, Patrick and Elizabeth Allan-Fraser,” explains Wasylyk, who is 36. “It’s a beautiful, ornate harp. So they asked me to write some music for it. I don’t play harp – they didn’t know that and still don’t.” He laughs softly. “But that’s OK because you can write for harp on piano, though not entirely, which I soon found out.

“Like a pedal steel guitar, the harp has pedals which change the intonation and tones and semi-tones of the strings. But because I like chromatic changes and unconventional chords, I put Sharron Griffiths, who played harp on the album, through some taxing sessions.

“She’s fantastic and, bless her, she put up with my ridiculous ideas. It was like she was knitting jerseys with her feet.”

Absorbing the environment around Hospitalfield – taking photographs, making field recordings, studying in the library, visiting Seaton Cliffs nature reserve – Wasylyk’s ambitions soon outgrew composing music for the harp.

“I quickly realised the weight and gravity of the North Sea on the horizon,” he says. “You can’t escape it. Dundee’s very beautiful, but I learned it’s quite sheltered by the mouth of the Tay. When I was driving to Arbroath every day the North Sea opens up and I could just make out Bell Rock lighthouse, a speck on the horizon. It was intoxicating and I thought: ‘I’ve got to get out there.’”

Late last winter, with the deadline for his commission looming, Wasylyk’s wish was granted: he took a boat trip to Robert Stevenson’s 35m-high tower, built between 1807 and 1810 and 11 miles east of the Firth of Tay.

“It was an incredible morning,” he recalls. “We set off at 6.30am. It was so still and tranquil – it was magical. We arrived at low tide and there were cormorants and seals basking in the sun, whimpering. It was so clear – I’ve never experienced anything like it. This was in March. We had no right to get that kind of weather.”

Galvanised by the experience, Wasylyk began foraging for other material with which to sculpt what would become The Paralian (named after an ancient Greek people who lived by the sea). “I started revisiting things like George Mackay Brown’s writing – he knew the sea well – and Joan Eardley, who studied at Hospitalfield, and one of my favourite Dundee painters, James Howie, who did these amazing seascapes. I was visiting his work at the McManus gallery a lot. Hopefully all these elements seeped in a little bit.

“Often I was starting with a minimal harp piece and thought, ‘OK, this is working, it’s pretty.’ Sharron’s playing is beautiful, and that helps, but then I felt compelled to embellish. In some cases I was adding drones and tape loops; in others piano; then brass, oboe, strings, synthesisers, percussion, bass … And it ballooned through into spring. I don’t know if it was intentional but it felt like the external environment was fuelling the arrangements.”

Recorded at his studio in a former call centre building in Dundee, with string arrangements by Pete Harvey of Modern Studies, the lion’s share of the instruments on The Paralian are played by Wasylyk himself. “It’s through necessity, really,” he explains. “Hospitalfield gave me a bit of money for writing but I put all that back into bringing in brass and string players. Generally speaking I get paid last – or not at all.”

Fortunately, the same cannot be said for all of Wasylyk’s endeavours. As Andrew Mitchell – he was christened Wasylyk (his paternal grandfather was Ukrainian) and deploys the name for his solo work – he has played bass with Idlewild and co-wrote and performed with their frontman Roddy Woomble on his last album, The Deluder.

Other collaborations include playing guitar with Brighton’s Electric Soft Parade – with whom he supported Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds in Europe – and School of Language, the side project of Field Music’s David Brewis (“musically intimidating” he says, laughing). Wasylyk is also one half of the duo Art of the Memory Palace (“dystopian pop, electro, krauty stuff”) and remains a member of the Hazey Janes, who made an album at Mull’s An Tobar arts centre with poet Liz Lochhead and saxophonist Steve Kettley in 2015 called The Light Comes Back.

“I’m fortunate to call Liz a pal," he says of the former Makar, who will perform at the Edinburgh launch for The Paralian at the Vooodoo Rooms this Wednesday. The following evening sees the album release celebrated at the Gardyne Theatre in Wasylyk’s hometown before Friday’s Celtic Connections show in Glasgow at The Blue Arrow, with support from Alasdair Roberts.

With limited space at the three venues precluding the presence of a harpist, Wasylyk says he will “have to mix things up a bit”. “It’ll be more of a rock show,” he suggests, chuckling. “There’s eight of us in the band so it’ll be a little bit tight.”

Wasylyk, whose obsession with music eclipsed a similar obsession with football after his uncle gifted him a guitar when he was 16, speaks carefully when asked for his perspective on Dundee’s much-vaunted renaissance.

“On one hand you feel quite a tangible shift in the city centre, with the V&A and the influx of tourism,” he says. “On the other there are people north of the Kingsway who don’t even know the V&A exists. Neither should they in the sense that it’s not affecting their lives, but it’s important to make sure that it does. I’m hoping things like the V&A give the city the collateral to make small changes in other parts of society.

“I love living and working in Dundee. Michael Marra always says Dundee is like a light across his heart and I feel the same way.”

With The Paralian, though, Wasylyk’s focus lay 17 miles north-east of his hometown. The resulting music – far grander and more sweeping than the original brief demanded – follows a palpable trajectory. “It's important to have a journey,” says Wasylyk. “I'm still a fan of the album as a piece of art, even though our attentions spans are decimated these days – my own included. I still like the romanticism that's wrapped up in a record having a start and an end.”

Listen up.

The Paralian is released by Athens of the North on Friday