Irish multi-disciplinary artist (and one-time member of almost huge indie band JJ72) Hilary Woods solo musical output has so far consisted of two highly acclaimed EP releases that put her on the critical map, even if they didn’t quite fire her into the limelight. But, the critical map is a great place to start from, and this debut album, Colt, is a fine moment indeed.
For those familiar with her old bands dramatic, Muse-like alternative rock, this album will come as something of a surprise, for it is an album of ethereal beauty, seeking power not through dynamic noise but in an intensity of emotion and delicacy of composition. The minimalism within the structure and arrangement of the songs gives them a dreamy strength and passion that is almost tangible, you can almost reach out and pull it towards you.
Composed around subtle and elegant piano parts that tend to a cyclical nature there are elements of ambient electronic music throughout, but rather than this genres simplicity of structure and emotion, Woods chooses to infuse her music with a widescreen drama and scope likely inherited from her work with film soundtracks. There is no superficiality lyrically either, with the words matching the emotional punch of the music. Opening number “Inhaler” is a metaphorical struggle for breath as a relationship comes to an end whilst “Jesus Said” is a follow on from this, a cathartic expression of abandonment and release.
Written and recorded in what Woods describes as an abandoned flat she happened to be living in at the time, the music is carefully built layers of piano, synths, unadorned beats and sweeping strings, embellished with drones and woozy field recordings, a wonderful blend of old word acoustica and new world electronica. The DIY 8 track nature of the recordings ensure it is a very textural piece of work that is obviously deeply personal, as Woods herself states “Colt was created as a way to process and make sense of the everyday.”
This is a piece of work that has the space to breath and be what it needs to be, both to her as the artist and us as the listeners. Yes, it is a piece about abandonment and grief but ultimately it results in a sense of positivity and understanding.
Colt is out now via Sacred Bones Records.