Having dipped both feet in separately to test the musical waters again with EPs in 2014 and 2016, Hilary Woods finally dropped her debut album ‘Colt’ this week. Opting not to include any of the tracks from her previous releases is a bold and confident step from the former JJ72 bassist turned singer-songwriter.
Fear ye not, for Woods defies that ubiquitous description of the singer songwriter; rest assured nobody will be mutilating her compositions at a house party with an acoustic guitar any time soon. Woods explores sonic planes beyond the grasp of most who would seek to destroy a good time with six strings.
Signed to Sacred Bones Records, home to – amongst others – Hollywood legends John Carpenter and David Lynch, hers is a different kind of song, one designed to envelope the listener like water taking a boat to its bosom.
Stark, eerie fairy tales of desolation unfold across ‘Colts’ eight tracks, as Woods unzips the seal on her imagination and guides us around its moors at dusk. Inhaler and Prodigal Dog showcase her ability to create and kill space in equal measure with musical restraint.
To call the instrumentation dainty would not do justice to the effect the simple rhythm figures possess. Much of the power in Woods’ compositions comes from the comfort of simple repetition of subtle sounds wrapping itself around you like a ball of string.
By the time that you realise you can’t move, it’s already too late. These special tactics underpin in different ways. The oriental droplets of Take Him In scratch against the simple piano arpeggio, creating unease before Woods’ monkish chant “Don’t be Afraid” offers a motherly solace.
The simple lo-fi beat and scatter piano improv of Jesus Said rebuke the track’s initial melancholy with liberated confusion.
Woods utilises this musical sleight of hand, if you will, to great effect, creating vastness from simplicity and suffocation from fresh air.
To be truly appreciated ‘Colt’ needs to be consumed in one sitting, so as to fully immerse oneself in the world that Hilary Woods is guiding us through. It is a trip best taken in solitude, in darkness, at night, with headphones, eyes closed and mind freed. Willing to be taken.