THIS is how it begins. An electronic throb, warm and woozy, begins, builds and falls away. And it then repeats and repeats, before a familiar voice starts to sing. “There’s a sense that nothing is real, until you can see it, until you can feel it …”

The voice is as distinctive as ever, but it’s held up, buoyed up even, by the electronic embrace of the music.

Return to Disappear is the first track on Roddy Woomble’s new album, Lo! Soul. It’s something of a marker. It tells us that Woomble is continuing to explore the possibilities offered by synths and beats that he dipped into on his last solo album Deluder and continued on the Everyday Sun EP.

The result is an album that sounds like a recording of fading sun-dazzled days at the very edge of memory. This, in case it needs said, is a good thing.

It certainly offers a different flavour to the anthemic pull of his most familiar work with Idlewild or the folkiness of his early solo work.

“It pushes me naturally into a different place,” Woomble says of the fluttering electronic soundbed of the new album. “I found myself singing completely differently and picking melodies I wouldn’t have picked if it was with a guitar player and a violin player or something.”

This Friday afternoon Woomble is sitting in his home on Iona waiting for his son to come home from school and talking to me about electronica and exclamation marks. Behind him are shelves crammed with albums. His is a life steeped in music in every sense.

The first thing I get him to do is pronounce the album title. He does. Quietly. You’re not pronouncing that exclamation mark, Roddy, I point out.

“I put it in there because I like ‘lo’ as a word,” he explains. “The American poet Walt Whitman uses it a lot. We had a song called Lo Soul. Although I’ve done it before, I’m never a massive fan of titling albums after songs because it puts a lot of emphasis on the song.

“So, it was actually something as innocent as that. Adding an exclamation mark to separate it from the song. A lot of people ask about the exclamation mark. ‘Am I supposed to shout it?’ No, it was actually just put there to differentiate it.

“I like exclamation marks and question marks when they are used in titles and they’re not used enough, I don’t think.”

Lo Soul, the not-quite title track is actually one of the album’s highlights. Woomble sings quietly about the sad sweetness of time passing over keyboards and programmed drumbeats that rise to envelop him. You can clearly hear the sonic thumbprints of Woomble’s collaborator and Idlewild compatriot Andrew Mitchell (aka Andrew Wasylyk).

“I am an enormous fan of Andrew,” Woomble says. “He’s a good pal of mine, but as a musician I think he’s really brilliant at realising things in a way that you would maybe not have expected. I like working with him a lot.

Read More: Andrew Wasylyk on music and memory

“With this record, we were making most of it on Zoom, passing ideas back and forth.” (Woomble’s friend, the musician Danny Grant also pitched in with some electronic beats sent from his home in Glasgow, while Jill Lorean provided some backing vocals.)

“Andrew is in Dundee and I’m here. He was taking charge a lot of the musical direction, I suppose. I was writing the songs, but he was producing them, and he knows how much I like his take on sonics and his palette of sound. So, he was given free rein.”

As a result, Woomble has been reminded that sometimes less is more. “There are two people now essentially, so there’s only so much we can do. And I love that. I do think in art limitation is freedom, almost. The more you limit yourself, the freer you feel sometimes. When you’ve got orchestras and amplifiers and everything at your disposal you don’t really know where to start. I find the less I have the easier I find it to create something.”

Last summer Woomble did manage to travel to Dundee for a few days which meant he could visit his parents who live nearby and go into the studio with Mitchell. They spent three days “mapping out the record,” he says.

“After that, it was all finished off remotely, with me in this room and a microphone. So, these three days in the middle of human contact in the midst of six months sitting in front of a computer.

“It’s an unusual record made in an unusual time.”

Well, yes. For all of us. “We’re all moving through life thinking everything is all right and then this happens,” Woomble agrees. “But I think, within that, if you are a creative person, you can still create. And that’s what I appreciated about this record. OK, we can’t do anything else, but we can still create something for other people to enjoy if they want to listen to it.

“And that’s a really optimistic thing to have, I think.”

Read More: Jill Lorean on surviving in the music industry

One of the casualties of the pandemic was the planned 25th anniversary tour for Idlewild. The optimist in him hopes they’ll go ahead in November. A quarter of a century is a pretty impressive innings for any band and certainly not what you might have expected if you’d heard the band’s early punky thrash.

“No, but we were never careerists in the slightest. The first thing we wanted to do was play a gig. And then after that was to play a gig in Glasgow. And then eventually it was to make a demo. And then it was to put out a seven-inch single. And then eventually, when you make that seven-inch single, you think, ‘Well, actually maybe we’ll go and play in London.’

“All these things happen and eventually, of course, we got signed to EMI and that was one reason we existed. Because they had the infrastructure and the money to support us. So, we went on tour all over the place and made records and because of that we developed this fan base that allowed us to continue beyond the EMI record deal when that finished.

“The longevity of the band is because we’ve never tried to have longevity. We’ve just stumbled along. And we’re all self-taught. None of us are proper musicians so we’ve always found our own way around it.”

When it comes to influences on the new solo album Woomble will admit to listening to Brian Eno’s Music for Films, Night Tracks on Radio 3 and NTS radio.

“And, of course, people like Dylan, Bjork, long-time favourites I go back to again and again and find inspiration.”

But, he points out, when working with Mitchell, they never talked about other records while making the record. “We never talk about, ‘Oh, let’s reference this.’ That way, if it does end up sounding like something, it was done by accident.

“I put that down to the fact that we [Idlewild] never started off playing cover versions. A lot of bands start playing cover versions. We always tried to write our own songs straight away. Psychologically that made us … I don’t know … We’ve never been a band that references other bands.”

He pauses, smiles. “I mean, a lot of people think we sound like loads of other bands.”

The Herald: Roddy Woomble. Photograph Euan RobertsonRoddy Woomble. Photograph Euan Robertson

We talk more about how life has changed for all of us this last year. He thinks it is not necessarily a bad thing.

“I think there has to be points of change in life, doesn’t there? And either they are instigated by yourself or instigated by things outwith your control.

“My feeling is life can’t always be the same. It has to change sometimes.”

Life and music. Roddy Woomble has a new record out. It’s not like the ones he has made before. Isn’t that a good thing?

Lo! Soul is now available on digital release. The vinyl and CD release follows in August. There will be an online launch of the album tomorrow night at 8pm. Tickets available from