INTERVIEW: Hilary Woods

A creator of fleshy, poignant, industrial-orchestral sounds; Irish artist Hilary Woods has been a firm favourite at GIHE since the release of her debut album Colt in 2018. Her most recent album Birthmarks is equally as captivating, and we wanted to find out more about what inspired Woods to create it. Read below to discover her processes, her vision, and her favourite track from the record…

Congratulations on releasing your second album Birthmarks earlier this month. What are you most proud of about this record? Do you have a favourite track?

Ah, thank you. I’m most proud of the process from which this record was made. I think ‘Tongues of Wild Boar’ is my favourite track. I love the drum processing and the presence and character of Okkyung’s cello playing, and I enjoyed exploring, layering and recording a lot of bass analogue synths for this one. It was a sensorial process. I recorded this song many times since its inception many moons ago, and I like where it has journeyed to in sound and feel.

You collaborated with Norwegian experimental noise producer & filmmaker Lasse Marhaug when you were recording the album. Talk us through how you worked together to create Birthmarks‘ dark, shadowy sounds.

Myself and Lasse spoke of the colour palette, atmospherics and the nervous system of the record from the outset. We were both interested in creating textures and what ways we could record and use different instrumentation to achieve such sounds. Saxophone plays an important role on the record, not so much because of what saxophone lines I wrote, but more to do with how Dag plays those parts and how we wanted his breath work through saxophone to be woven into the mix. Field recording, drone and noise all helped create the sound world of the record too. I recorded a lot of the synths, piano, electronics at home in my lil studio, and whilst I was with Lasse working at his studio in Oslo, we recorded guitar parts and some vocals together. Lasse would process a lot of what I had already recorded at home, he recorded cello with contact mics, Kyrre Laastad recorded imaginative textural percussion, and we went from there.

You wrote the album over the course of two years, and whilst heavily pregnant, which is impressive in itself. On your record, there are themes of growth, germination, and feeling either detached or attached to one’s body. Without sounding too invasive, do you think you were more aware of these feelings during your pregnancy? Did it influence your writing in any unexpected way?

I actually wrote this record before I got pregnant. I also had the title Birthmarks decided upon from the get go, which is a little uncanny but true. However, I recorded the album whilst heavily pregnant in the Autumn of 2019. So the writing of this record really was never consciously in a direct way influenced by physical pregnancy, although it was certainly very much focused on themes of self-hood, gestational growth, the birthing of one’s self and processes of becoming. I wanted to write a record that was of the body, one that registered in and with the body, a more physical record than my previous work.

Your visuals and artwork beautifully accompany the music you’ve created. Talk us through how you put these together – from your photographs and videos with Josh Wright, to the album’s artwork…

I feel as both a music and visual artist, my work in both disciplines is very intertwined. I think visually, and when it comes to making videos and artwork there is an ease there, I enjoy that side of things, it comes naturally. The visual ideas arise from within, almost simultaneously sometimes to the writing of the songs themselves. The artwork and videos are for me an innate and important part of the album; although the LP stands alone and is separate in form, I feel the visuals come from the same place. In terms of making videos, I always make and direct my own as opposed to outsourcing them to another filmmaker as an extra thing to do to tailgate the main thrust of the project, if you know what I mean! Josh and I have been working together for a long time, and there is a beautiful communicative short hand there with Josh working the camera, which is cool. He’s also a dab hand at software that I find frustrating and we are friends – which always helps particularly when a video requires us to spend so much time together editing and grading etc. Re the album artwork; the front cover photo of me was taken by friend Emma Martin. It seemed apt to have a picture of my pregnancy on the cover. It’s a strong image and embodies metaphorically what the album addresses; birth, rebirth, hidden growth, unknowing, making redundant the old and a dawning of the new. It is also an image that communicates that this record is heavier and more physical than its predecessor.

Birthmarks is noticeably heavier in sound compared to Colt, but are there elements you feel are similar to your first record?

Yes. At the end of the day I initiate writing melody on the piano or guitar. I also work within my own limitations vocally, as a musician and work with whatever resources I have around me. So there are those similarities. Also, lyrically I have my own patterns with which I lean in to, and I think there are similarities in that regard between Colt and Birthmarks for sure. Overall however, I feel the big difference between the two albums besides the latter being far more sonic and a lot heavier, is that Colt is more a collection of songs, whereas Birthmarks was intended as a piece to be received as a whole, a journey to be listened to from beginning to end in one sitting.

You’re signed to Sacred Bones, along with some of our favourite artists (Zola Jesus, Blanck Mass). They released a compilation album on Bandcamp – I Fall In Love With The Light – to help their artists make a profit during this uncertain time. Your track ‘Mouth To Mouth’ features on it. Talk us through why you chose to include this track.

The label suggested that ‘Mouth to Mouth’ go on the compilation. I’m a fan of the distortion and the mix that Lasse did with it, so on it went!

Thanks to Hilary for answering our questions. You can buy her latest album Birthmarks here. Follow her on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Photo Credit: Joshua Wright

ALBUM: Hilary Woods – ‘Birthmarks’

Both an aural purge of insecurities, and a powerful exploration of self-autonomy; Sacred Bones signee Hilary Woods‘ second album Birthmarks is due for release on 13th March. Darker and sharper in sound in comparison to her debut album Colt, the Irish musician has collaborated with Norwegian experimental noise producer & filmmaker Lasse Marhaug, and together they’ve crafted a new set of cohesive, shadowy soundscapes that smolder with quiet intensity.

Written & recorded over the course of two years between Galway and Oslo whilst Woods was heavily pregnant, Birthmarks feels like her most personal and powerful record to date. Inspired by field recordings, the images from post-war Japanese & wet-plate photography, and the secret life of trees; Woods’ far-reaching influences are what make her art so transcendent.

Opener ‘Tongues Of Wild Boar’ is a foggy, captivating exploration of intense discomfort. From its scratchy, dense opening, to its gentle blend of orchestral and electronic elements, it’s a primal, intuitive track that scars and soothes in equal measure. “My body knows I can’t make it out” Woods sings on ‘Orange Tree’, tentatively trying to make peace with her body and her surroundings. This need to face her inner fears underscores the record, making it an unsettling, but genuinely liberating listen.

The tender ‘Through The Dark, Love’ feels like an intuitive guide through an ambiguous, tumultuous relationship, whilst the sparse instrumentation and the rhythmic humming on ‘Lay Bare’ both feel intensely comforting. Woods’ songs feel confessional, yet meditative in nature, ranging from gentle to gritty all within a few short seconds. ‘Mud and Stones’ is much like this; with its stretched out saxophone sounds, changing tempo, and whispered lyrics.

‘The Mouth’ is one of the boldest, most confident tracks on the album. A fleshy, twisted lullaby about personal hesitation; it’s a somber yet powerful listen, laced with melancholy strings, saxophone, and distorted drone noises. Though fueled by uncertainty, it’s a carefully constructed song that provides space for healing and acceptance. The denseness of ‘Cleansing Ritual’ is unexpectedly soothing too. Purely instrumental, its layers of drone noises and distortion could cauterize the deepest of wounds. The eerie, persistent tapping of one key alongside Woods’ hushed voice on ‘There Is No Moon’ could feel desolate, but instead it feels restless; as if she is keeping herself awake with the urgency of that repeated note.

Though quiet in terms of volume, Birthmarks is an abrasive, primal, charged offering that allows Woods the space to navigate emotional territories, and prove her strength and resilience as an artist.

Pre-order Hilary Woods’ new album Birthmarks here (released 13th March via Sacred Bones)
Follow her on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Joshua Wright 

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LISTEN: Hilary Woods – ‘The Mouth’

A fleshy, twisted lullaby about personal hesitation; Hilary Woods has shared her latest single, ‘The Mouth’. Taken from her second album Birthmarks, which is set for release on 13th March via Sacred Bones, the track is a somber yet powerful listen; laced with strings, saxophone, and distorted drone noises.

Speaking about the track, Woods explains: “The impulse to write ‘The Mouth’ came from a longing to articulate feelings aloud that I failed to express til the moment had passed.” Though fueled by uncertainty and doubt, ‘The Mouth’ is one of Woods’ boldest, most confident tracks. It’s a dense, layered, carefully constructed soundscape that provides space for healing and acceptance.

Written & recorded over the course of two years between Galway and Oslo whilst Woods was heavily pregnant, Birthmarks looks set to be her most personal and powerful record to date. Inspired by the works of Norwegian experimental noise producer & filmmaker Lasse Marhaug, the images from post-war Japanese and wet-plate photography, to the secret life of trees; Woods’ far-reaching influences are what make her art so mesmerising and transcendent.

Listen to ‘The Mouth’ below, and follow Hilary Woods on Facebook & Spotify for more updates. Catch her live at Cafe Oto, London, on 18th May

Photo credit: Joshua Wright

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LISTEN: Hilary Woods – ‘Tongues of Wild Boar’

A shadowy, captivating exploration of intense discomfort; Sacred Bones signee Hilary Woods has shared ‘Tongues of Wild Boar’, the first single lifted from her upcoming album Birthmarks, which is set for release on 13th March.

Though quiet in terms of volume, Woods’ new single is a fleshy, charged offering that allows her the space to navigate “emotionally charged states” at a pace suited to her. “It is a song deeply lodged in the body, that yearns to surface for air and escape its own shadow.” Woods explains, and the accompanying visuals she collaborated on with Joshua Wright beautifully reflect this.

Written over the course of two years, and recorded whilst heavily pregnant between Galway and Oslo in the winter of 2019, Birthmarks looks set to be Woods’ most personal and powerful record to date. Inspired by the works of Norwegian experimental noise producer & filmmaker Lasse Marhaug, the images from post-war Japanese and wet-plate photography, to the secret life of trees; Woods’ far-reaching influences are what make her art so beguiling and transcendent.

From its scratchy, dense opening, to its gentle blend of orchestral and electronic elements; ‘Tongues of Wild Boar’ is a primal, intuitive track that scars and soothes in equal measure. Watch the video below, and follow Hilary Woods on Facebook for more updates.

Pre-order Hilary Woods new album Birthmarks here.

Hilary Woods Live Dates 2020
19th April – Roadburn Festival, TILBERG NL
18th May – Cafe Oto, LONDON UK

Photo credit: Joshua Wright

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

PLAYLIST: October 2018

The dark winter nights are creeping in, but our brand new October playlist is filled with bright, vibrant new sounds from a range of unusual and inspiring new artists. If our selections are anything to go by, the October 5th is THE date to release a record, and we’re excited to share our track selections with you. Take some time to scroll through our words and hit play on the Spotify link at the bottom of the page…

Health (feat. Soccer Mommy) – ‘Mass Grave’
I’m obsessed with this new track from L.A. noise rockers HEALTH, which features the divine vocals of Soccer Mommy. Produced by Corin Roddick (Purity Ring), ‘Mass Grave’ is a haunting fusion of alarming synths, apathetic vocals and spaced out percussion. (Kate Crudgington)

Kill J – ‘Strange Fruits of the Sea’
Kill J’s latest offering tackles issues of immigration and racism, with a subtle nod to Billie Holiday’s  iconic ‘Strange Fruit’ (1939). Speaking about the track, Kill J explains: “It’s a protest song about boarders, walls, barbed wire fences, and people trying to survive on small boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea. While some people dream of just surviving their journey across the boarders, others dream of wealth and power at the expense of others”. I’m a big fan of Kill J’s defiance, which she explores through hypnotising electronics. ‘Strange Fruits of the Sea’ is taken from her upcoming album Superposition, released 5th October via Nettwerk. (KC)

Pip Blom – ‘Come Home’
Catchy AF, ‘Come Home’is the latest single from Amsterdam favourites of mine Pip Blom, taken from their upcoming EP Paycheck which is out on 5th October. I had the pleasure of seeing these guys support The Breeders earlier in the year at the Roundhouse, an abundance of energy and an abundance of hair. Catch them if you can, they’re playing all over the UK this November including The Lexington on the 22nd. (Tash Walker)

Big Joanie – ‘Fall Asleep’
‘Fall Asleep’ is the latest single from Get In Her Ears faves Big Joanie, I only heard this for this first time a week or so ago but it’s firmly got into my head.  They’ve recently announced their debut album Sistahs is going to be released this November by The Daydream Library Series, and I can’t wait to hear the record in full! (TW)

Gold Baby – ‘What Party?
Having charmed us with their with their twinkling charisma and catchy offerings live at The Finsbury, East London’s Gold Baby have now shared new single ‘What Party?’. Reflecting on self-induced boundaries and the limits we often place on ourselves, ‘What Party?’ is propelled by a scuzzy, sparkling energy. Catch Gold Baby live at The Shacklewell Arms on 5th October. (Mari Lane)

Mammoth Penguins – ‘When I Was Your Age’
Having finally been lucky enough to catch Cambridge-based Mammoth Penguins supporting Adult Mom at The Shacklewell Arms last week, my love of their 2015 album Hide and Seek has been freshly revived, and I once again cannot stop listening to it. Fronted by Emma (also known for playing bass for GIHE faves Suggested Friends, and being part of the wonderful Indietracks Festival team), live the band ooze an utterly infectious, shimmering energy, with a highlight being the highly relatable (and seemingly appropriate – it’s Emma’s birthday) ‘When I Was Your Age’. Reflecting on the common pressures of growing up and habits of people to constantly compare themselves to each other, it’s a twinkling slice of impassioned indie-pop, fitting perfectly into the band’s collection of dreamy, scuzzy, emotion-filled delights. A totally uplifting set that stands me in good stead for crying the night away (in a good way) to the lush sounds of Adult Mom. (ML)

Chorusgirl – ‘No Goodbye’
Following 2015’s wonderful self-titled debut, GIHE faves Chorusgirl have now announced their long-awaited new album Shimmer And Spin, and we couldn’t be happier for them. Taken from the album, new single ‘No Goodbye’ is filled with jangly hooks and sunny uplifting beats, despite perhaps a lingering dark undercurrent. As Silvi’s distinctive, lush vocals soar throughout, effervescent harmonies and impressive driving riffs flow, creating Chorusgirl’s utterly unique, shimmering sounds. Another truly dreamy slice of sparkling garage-pop, ‘No Goodbye’ proves that it’s impossible to listen to Chorusgirl and not feel instantly better. Shimmer And Spin, the upcoming new album from Chorusgirl, is out 16th November via Reckless Yes. (ML)

Praa – ‘Y’
This new single from Praa was released at the end of September, and it’s all about questioning our human connection with virtual relationships maintained via our screens. I think it’s a beautiful example of modern neo-soul. Thank you Praa. (TW)

Hazel Iris – ‘A Prince’
‘A Prince’ by classically trained Hazel Iris, is a totally enchanting piece of music, loaded with emotion and fusing classical, indie folk, and a bit of jazz. Her debut album Nine Sisters is due out on 26th October and she’ll be performing at St Batholomew-the-Great in Smithfield’s on the same date, which will no doubt be a mesmerising show. The track’s not up on Spotify just yet, but you can listen to it below (TW)

Ah! Kosmos – ‘June’
Taken from her new album Beautiful Swamp (due 5th October via Compost Records), ‘June’ is another example of Ah! Kosmos’ stunning ability to create powerful, rapturous soundscapes. Born in Istanbul and now based in Berlin, Ah! Kosmos (aka Başak Günak) is a sound designer, producer and multi-instrumentalist – and I can’t wait to review her new record for the website this week. (KC)

Aisha Badru – ‘Splintered’
Following the lush, enveloping sound of previous single ‘Bridges’, New York’s Aisha Badru returns to charm our ears with a sparkling new offering. A call for people to take control of their lives‘Splintered’ flows with the beautiful, sweeping splendour of Badru’s delicately emotion-strewn vocals. Oozing a majestic grace, alongside twinkling melodies and a soaring musicality, it’s filled with a raw emotion that’ll send shivers down the spine on first listen. Pendulum, the latest album from Aisha Badru, is out now. (ML)

Varley – ‘Lonely Were The Days’
Reflecting on the ever-growing demands of today’s society from the effects of social media and the pressure this puts on a whole generation to “be something”, ‘Lonely Were The Days’ is an instantly infectious slice of dreamy alt-pop from Berlin-based Varley. As pulsating beats propel the track alongside the shimmering splendour of front woman Claire-Ann’s vocals, a captivating soundscape is created, leaving you no choice but to bask in its glorious, glistening glow. Catch Varley playing for us live at Notting Hill Arts Club on 1st December alongside Alyss, Elsa Hewitt and Temples Of Youth! (ML)

Art School Girlfriend – ‘Distance (Blank)’
Art School Girlfriend is the moniker of producer & multi-instrumentalist Polly Mackey. Her latest single ‘Distance’ is taken from her recent EP Into The Blue Hour, which was influenced by her move from London to the seaside town of Margate. I love her calm vocals and subtle, yet grand use of synthesizers on this track. She makes being “in over [your] head” sound so, so appealing. (KC)

TAYNE – ‘Sacrifice’
This TAYNE track dropped in to my inbox in January, and it’s been swirling around my head ever since. I’ve also been singing the lyrics incorrectly for the last nine months (the chorus is “I want hope”, not “I want her” as I initially thought) – but I’m not going to let a blip like that stop me from praising this synth-laden, noise-pop gem. TAYNE are celebrating the release of their debut album Breathe at The Old Blue Last on Thursday 4th October (with support from Birthmarks & Volkova Sisters). It’s a free gig, and you can pick up a copy of the clear magenta vinyl (which features ‘Sacrifice’) on the night, ahead of its official release on 2nd November. Us Get In Her Ears girls will all be there, so we’ll see you at the bar! (RSVP here). (KC)