Album review: Hilary Woods – Birthmarks

By Nina Maria Schaarschmidt

We’ve all got scars on our bodies, it does not matter if they are visible or not. Everyone’s got their personal unhealed scars and open wounds, which they tend to hide instead of letting them heal. Hillary Woods’ ‘Birthmarks’ invites and encourages everyone to identify their scars, wounds or birthmarks and let them heal, no matter what it takes. It advocates for the revisiting and caressing of old wounds, an auditory bath for you to soak them in until the dead skin regains life. 

Hilary Woods wrote ‘Birthmarks’ over the course of two years. She recorded it in Galway and Oslo last winter while heavily pregnant. Based on personal experiences and healing, she wrote about topics like selfhood and becoming, hidden growth and the birthing of the self. Following her vision for the record, Woods collaborated with Norwegian experimental noise producer and filmmaker Lasse Marhaug. They made field recordings, used analogue bass synthesizers and recorded heavy breaths underpinned with heavy noise processing, fierce and gawping cello, rich percussion, sable saxophone and electronics. It’s Inspired by everlasting anxiety in modern society, abstract artwork, the experimental collapse of human community and the power of the lone human voice.

It celebrates the art of alchemy and the world of the unseen. It is a guided journey which includes sonic exorcism and poetic healing along the way. The record includes eight tracks, which merge together to make one story. Musically and lyrically, Woods has got a lot to say. For the most part, she expresses her desire to heal to the backing of primal beats. By the end though we reach quiet. ‘There is no moon’ sees peaceful melodies merge with Jenny Hval-like murmurs, communicating that the journey of healing has now come to an end. The transcendence Woods bathed you in permitting you to re-enter the world with newfound vim and vigour. 

‘Birthmarks’ is out Friday 13 March on Sacred Bones

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