Hilary Woods
Birthmarks


3.5
great

Review

by Dewinged CONTRIBUTOR (73 Reviews)
March 24th, 2020 | 16 replies


Release Date: 03/13/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Isolation woes.

Dark music for dark times. Irish singer songwriter Hilary Woods knows this all too well. The timing for releasing Birthmarks, her second full length, almost obeys an inexplicable premonition. The world lives in confinement, subjugated by one of the most destructive pandemics of modern history. For many, the night sky has been replaced with white concrete. Air circulates scarcely across the room through half open windows. The same windows that those neighbors you had never heard of use now to party at the balcony while they rave in their increasing madness, unhinged by the seemingly endless isolation program that has become their daily routine.

Dark music for dark times indeed. Although, if you are reading this, there is a good chance you are on the other side of the spectrum, the one that takes this sad chance to find some peace of mind, to reflect, and to value things from a different perspective. Birthmarks will help you in doing that.

Hilary Woods walks that tightrope between funeral folk and gritty new age. Her music is mournful but healing, gloomy but strangely alluring and comforting. In Birthmarks, her second album for Sacred Bones records, she has now chosen a side, plunging into a void of solemn cellos, deranged string arrangements and primal field recordings. Expect percussion to be sparse, and reverb generous. Woods sings at times with a voice that doesn't even sound like her own. Reminiscent of peers like Chelsea Wolfe in tracks like "The Mouth", or Emily Jane White in "Through the Dark, Love", she has somehow relinquished a sound that in Colt, her fantastic debut, felt more unique and personal.

Take it as a descriptive remark instead of a critique to Woods, because Birthmarks is, for the genre, a very welcomed addition. It's an extremely calming album, one that doesn't rely too heavily on the singer's bewitching voice, but also in the superb work that Lasse Marhaug, one of the most active producers and conspirators of the Norwegian noise and experimental scene has done at the helm. The instrumentation used in Birthmarks feels deliberately unrefined. There's plenty of white noise, crackling wood, and if my ears don't betray me, the hoarse whiffles of a digeridoo. Two unusually long interludes, "Mud and Stones" and "Cleansing Ritual" showcase Marhaug's dominion of his craft, with the first reducing Woods' voice to mere whispers and the second eradicating her completely. "The Mouth" is the loudest section of the album, carried by a pummeling noise coated beat and Woods' distorted vocals, while the first half, a total of four tracks, is where the essence of Birthmarks sojourns, with Woods’ vocals upfront.

Unintentionally, Hilary Woods may have bestowed to the world a much-needed album, extracted from the creative womb she refers to in highlight "Orange Tree". The woes of isolation grow stronger every day, no question about that, eating away your sanity while your face sinks in the pillow. Birthmarks might be the music that keeps you afloat, or it may not, but it will regardless send the message to those party hungry residents. Just bring those speakers out of the window. Hilary Woods will take it from there.



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user ratings (5)
3.3
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2020


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sending some healing music out your way, for all those being hit by confinement.



Hope you find relief on stuff like this, I certainly do.



Here's "Orange Tree": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmHLF3FPndI



And as always (and specially these days) support the artist if you like her music:



https://hilarywoodsmusic.bandcamp.com/album/birthmarks



Digging: Old Man Gloom - Seminar IX: Darkness of Being

TheNotrap
March 24th 2020


13413 Comments


This is probably not my thing, but your review made me want to listen to the album. It seems appropriate for people like me, who've been confined to their homes for a few days now.

Digging: Aeternam - Al Qassam

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2020


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think you may dig this one. Give it a headphones jam though, or dim the lights.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2020


10467 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"Although if you are reading this there is a good chance you are on the other side of the spectrum. The one that takes this sad chance to find some peace of mind, to reflect, and to value things from a different perspective."



Probably needing a comma after 'Although' and a colon or dash after 'spectrum'



But other than that, good read my man. Definitely illustrates the uneasiness that's been taking hold as of late. I'm definitely not an ambient guy so this'll probably be a pass for me as well.

Digging: Omega Infinity - Solar Spectre

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2020


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good remarks Mars, tx, will edit those.



And yeah man, I think this would make you even more stressed lol

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2020


10467 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Oh it's not a matter of stress lol, ambient tends to just bore the tears out of me if I'm being honest. In context of a larger project (i.e. the ambient sections of The Long Procession), I can get into ambient as a segue to other parts (though I truthfully find AVL's ambiance to have a lot more meat to it--not quite as nebulous). As a whole album, I've never been able to stomach it much.



Part of my dilemma is that my listening philosophy generally means I won't be multitasking much while visiting an album. From what a lot of people have mentioned, ambient is good background noise for work/etc., but I try to limit distractions so all I focus on is the music. In that regard, I've mostly been disappointed when unpacking an ambient release. Obviously, I'm always open to having my mind changed!

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2020


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I see. Well this is probably closer to folk than to ambient in some regard. It's not the my-finger-on-a-keyboard-oh-i-felt-asleep-and-recorded-15-minutes kind of ambient.



I'd say, if you like Chelsea Wolfe, you'll enjoy this

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2020


10467 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"my-finger-on-a-keyboard-oh-i-felt-asleep-and-recorded-15-minutes"



That made my morning.



Never tried her, but if you recommend this highly enough, I'll try to come back around to it.

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2020


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Jam the YouTube track I put up there first, it's short and sweet, so that'll give u an idea.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2020


25610 Comments


nice review, bud!

glad this grew on you. I need to give it another go now. glad you mentioned the string arrangements because it really felt like they were a huge selling point for the atmosphere here

Digging: Therapy? - Troublegum

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2020


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Cheers Atari, this is all about atmosphere.

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 26th 2020


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is growing on me.

TabulaRasa6
March 26th 2020


523 Comments


I'll check this out eventually, but what am I looking at on the cover?

Digging: Model/Actriz - No

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 26th 2020


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Her belly?

TabulaRasa6
March 26th 2020


523 Comments


It seems like it but it's really hard to tell from my computer screen.

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 26th 2020


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

There's some underboob at top right, so I'm gonna go with my belly theory.



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