ALBUM REVIEW: Hilary Woods – Colt

8/10

What a stroke of luck, Hilary’s first teenage band experience was practically an overnight success, resulting in a stint international acclaim, two top twenty albums, four top forty singles (one of which would be named “Single of the week” by BBC Radio 1 DJ Mark Radcliffe), Top of the Pops appearances, and being tagged, by the now-defunct Melody Maker as, “THE SEXIEST GIRL IN ROCK MUSIC”; a title Woods feels is “best forgotten”. The band Woods joined as a bassist, was the Dublin based, JJ72 (a band that derived their name from a window at Belvedere College made from 72 jam jars).

Since leaving JJ72 (who split in 2006) in 2003, Hilary took “a solitary approach to her own thoughts and creativity”. From her first solo outing in 2014 with Night EP, to performing a live score at an Irish Film Institute screening of The Golem: How He Came Into The World; Hilary Woods returns with Colt, which promises to be “laden with stark, minimalist, ambient, electronic sounds tackling topics of grief & abandonment.” Colt opens with a dark and chilling introduction reminiscent to Leonard Cohen’s Avalanche. The piano, the first instrument Woods took to (alongside synths) plays a prominent role, developing into a more soothing, therapeutic chill-out healing track, leaving one onto the road to spiritual recovery; as opposed to being caught amidst in a nightmare. This therapeutic feeling can also be attributed to Woods own unique vocals: a hybrid between mostly Enya and to an extent, Bjork.

Following an impressive and unexpected turn to the LP (initially recorded in Woods own flat and then mixed by and co-produced with James Kelly (WIFE, Altar of Plagues) in Berlin), Prodigal Dog follows, where haunting guitar-free Cohenesque senses with Hilary’s own mellow elation are mixed and stirred; creating feelings of being in a state of clam, even relaxation; whilst the niggling reality of the world, and its more sinister elements, whilst not invading or threatening you, are nonetheless present and not as distant as one would wish them to be.

The cocktail of sanguine elation, mixed with a mostly guitar and bass free haunting, is the predominant theme throughout each of the eight tracks on Colt. Jesus Said and Black Rainbow are the most distinctive tracks on the LP. Jesus Said is bountiful in variety and twists and turns; starting off with slow keys and synths to a personal struggle, confusion and understanding with faith, develops with unexpected, thought-provoking and engaging synthetic drumming and woodblock instruments, with more creative and blooming piano arrangements; whilst maintaining a lo-fi dignity. Black Rainbow, despite the lyrics, is musically sanguine, happy with jolly, but nonetheless has disciplined and controlled piano arrangements, accompanied with the occasional shy background contribution of the guitar. The arrangements gradually evaporate; leaving dark, almost demonic, electronic haunting strings. Playout track, Limbs, probably the most haunting of all, continuously ascends and falls. The track fades out leaving many unanswered questions with the listener desperately seeking further musical contact with Hilary Woods.

There is seldom a JJ72 influence on Colt. Drawing influences from her former band would not have been a bad thing, even potentially a positive thing; nonetheless, through her debut LP, Woods successfully demonstrates her individualistic musical Formulae; proving she is much more than a former teenage female pin-up.

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