Hilary Woods: Birthmarks review – A disquieting but compelling album
Is it safe to stop prefacing Hilary Woods’s name with “former JJ72 bassist” yet? The Dublin-born musician’s previous life as an indie icon is so far removed from her solo output that it may as well be another person’s. Woods’s second solo album sees her venture further down the rabbit hole of experimentation, resulting in challenging but thought-provoking sonic soundscapes.
That’s not some knowingly pretentious description, by the way: here, instruments are processed, field recordings are incorporated and melodies twist themselves into shapes unbecoming of the designation of song.
Amid the analogue synthesisers, crackling basslines and thunderous booms of percussion, however, is the ethereal voice of Woods, which gives tracks like Orange Tree and Through the Dark, Love an eerie, hymnal vibe that sounds more like a witch’s incantation than a lyric. T
he crystalline tinkle of piano or harp occasionally breaks through, but the overall feeling is one of sombre darkness, best heard on the apocalyptic The Mouth. The aching rattle of Cleansing Ritual, with its sci-fi/horror soundtrack ambience, is testament to Woods’s previous film scoring experience and her work as an audio-visual artist, where setting the scene is imperative. All in all, it makes for a disquieting but nonetheless compelling collection.