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.