A contemplative, carefully crafted record which schools listeners in how to come undone: Hilary Woods‘ debut album Colt is an exquisitely painful exploration of grief, separation, and abandonment. The Dublin-based artist signed to altruistic label Sacred Bones to release her first full-length record, and the partnership is one we wholly approve of.
Written and recorded at her home in Dublin, Colt was later mixed by and co-produced with James Kelly (WIFE, Altar of Plagues) in Berlin in the winter of 2017. The dynamics of the production and Woods’ layering of multiple elements – including piano, synth, tape machine, field recordings, vocals, and old string instruments – has culminated in a record which comfortably overlaps both the acoustic and electronic genres.
Opening track ‘Inhaler’ is a delicate example of this. It’s a pensive, melancholy song born from Woods’ struggle with homesickness. She explores her grief through tentative electronics and orchestral sounds, with her mysterious vocals floating calmly above. Following track ‘Prodigal Dog’ is a mesmeric examination of emotional claustrophobia: a disarming fusion of strings, understated synths, and hushed vocals.
There is a gentle urgency that permeates each of the eight tracks on Colt, and on ‘Take Him In’ Woods’ reflective lyrics and cautious keys instill this delicate unease further. Poetic track ‘Kith’ bleeds in after, with it’s divine, yet somber themes of “running on empty” in what feels like emotional purgatory. The persistent, steady beats and fluttering keys on the remarkable ‘Jesus Said’ mark a brief change in tempo on the record, as Woods laments a sincere disconnection and a search for absolution for almost six minutes. ‘Sever’ is equally as affecting with its heartbeat-like percussion, and more of Woods’ measured, poignant vocals.
Penultimate track ‘Black Rainbow’ though bleakly named, is an enchanting listen, and closing track ‘Limbs’ is a captivating collection of distant, alluring keys. Under all of the melancholy lurks a quiet power: a power that comes from being open and honest about genuine pain and how to deal with it.
To call Hilary Woods’ work on Colt siren-like is to do her a disservice; her music has a far wider, more disarming reach. Her emotional articulation and manipulation of sounds makes the record a dizzying but rewarding lesson, and we are grateful to have been allowed to endure this aural exploration of grief with her.
Photo Credit: Joshua Wright