Hilary Woods has created an astonishing new album here. The Irish singer songwriter and visual artist made this record, Birthmarks, dividing her time between Ireland and Norway (Galway and Oslo respectively)
It is the push and pull that so seduces. Woods’ voice is so vulnerable and open, but the music is dense and dark. She was pregnant when making this, so naturally, fertility, childbirth and creation is all over the record as a theme, focusing on transition and the changes in Woods’ body upon becoming a mother.
Far from being a cosy, reassuring experience, it’s often deeply unsettling. Woods takes us deep into the woods. It could easily sit alongside Thom Yorke’s Suspiria which ploughs a similar furrow, in the beautiful vocals/ unnerving instrumentation paradigm.
Tongues Of Wild Boar has dreamy piano, cello and drones with Woods’ vulnerable vocals front and centre. She knows that soft places are no guarantee of safety.
Lay Bare sighs with strings and neo- classical influences, whereas the instrumental Cleansing Ritual has an electronic buzz which whips up into a storm, emulating the unease of a giallo soundtrack. And Orange Tree dreamily evokes pagan rituals around fecundity.
Despite the darkness implicit in much of the music, though, there’s an overarching sense that all that is troubling is ephemeral and will, like nightmares, pass into calmer waters. Birthmarks leaves an indelible mark on the listener.
Out via Sacred Bones on March 13th.Touring in the spring.