Hilary Woods

The Irish artist has evolved into a creator of totally immersive states.

When I listen to drones, I feel I listen with all my being,” says Hilary Woods as she considers her voyage into the far more esoteric waters than has ever been hinted at during her career. “It moves through me, but it also provides an anchor.” Indeed, this is a musical form that for Woods “stretches and reaches back in time” while “moving and being moved by tectonic plates in sound.”

Hilary Woods’ journey into sound and music has been continuing on and off for almost 25 years. Born and raised in Dublin, Woods joined indie-rockers JJ72 in 1999 before leaving the band four years later and quitting the music industry altogether to concentrate on raising a family and resuming her academic studies.

Her return to music in 2013 yielded an eponymous album under The River Cry banner, but it was signing to US experimental label Sacred Bones and releasing records under her own name that Woods began mining a specific and increasingly idiosyncratic niche of her own. Her debut solo album, the atmospheric and ethereal //Colt// (2018), was followed two years later by the sparse and haunting explorations of //Birthmarks// (2020), and it’s with new album //Acts Of Light// that sees Woods moving into the twilit world of drones and soundscapes. Combining field recordings with vast electronic sweeps and contributions from the Galway City Chamber Choir and Dublin’s Palestrina Choir, as well as strings recorded by Norwegian bassist Jo Berger Myhre, this has been a wholly new experience for Woods.

In many ways it was like painting,” says Woods of the recording process. “There were many layers scratched out and reworked and kneaded into. Unlike //Birthmarks//, the tracks on //Acts Of Light// didn’t have that same level of robustness to them. The material here was very supple and the tracks themselves were ironically far more sensitive to change. I had to act quickly in the mix as if I was moulding hot clay. Every tweak I made would utterly change the character of the track.”

The melding of acoustic elements such as cellos and human voices with manipulated sound means that the resulting nine pieces on //Acts Of Light// frequently feel as if they can be stepped in and out of while navigating the areas of light and darkness.

I liked the physicality of making the different tracks and thinking of that process as a series of acts, coupled with the idea of having to generate one’s own light,” adds Woods. “I also felt that a record which has weight, is sonically heavy and very textural was in need of light but simultaneously was itself shining a torch directing light into the shadows. I liked the idea of darkness defining the light, and the image of making a record akin to striking a match into the dark and being presented with its luminosity and the places it has brought you to in the making of it.”

A balancing act for sure, but one without the need for safety nets. JM

LINE-UP: HILARY WOODS (Electronics, field recordings, production).

SOUNDS LIKE: The light and the dark and the shade in between.

CURRENT RELEASE: Acts Of Light is out now on Sacred Bones Records

WEBSITE: www.hilarywoods.com

Julian Marszalek

From "Limelight - Hilary Woods" Prog Reprinted with permission.

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