Birthmarks is a restless dream. It scratches and pulses with its own internal logic, one that contorts the abstract sound of Hilary Woods into something ominous, disturbing and ritualistic. Casting a potent spell over the listener, Woods latest offering bewitches and conjures music that brings the darkened corners of music and brings them to to the forefront.
The scratching ambiance, the sudden crash of buzzsaw bass and taut strings of album opener ‘Tongues of Wild Bore’ set the scene for Woods to appear like an apparition, distant, obscured and intermittent. Moving to the shimmering hypnotic guitar of ‘Orange Tree’, the subtle and sudden textures that ebb and flow with Birthmarks underline the sense of otherness that runs beneath the record and calls for us to delve further into the music to find out what, where and who makes it.
Directly followed by the sprawling growl and growing ambiance of ‘Through The Dark, Love’ and Woods’ ability to entangle the listener within the deepening atmospherics of her music begins to take hold.
Indeed, there is a point in Birthmarks where you might lose your place. Where the shuddering noises of ‘Mud and Stones’, the low-level ambiance of ‘Lay Bare’ and engulfing beat of ‘The Mouth’ all collide in sounds and vocals that struggle to be heard as the growing tension of the record ensnares the listener.
This is where the album truly has you, the midway point where there is no turning back and you feel compelled to follow. Hilary Woods is the master at this, creating enough mystery in her music that every sound, vocal cry and brooding long-held string line makes a statement within the stark space it exists. Nothing in Birthmarks is there by chance, but conversely, nothing is easily explained. Making for an album that allows interpretation and defies definition.
Occupying the periphery, Birthmarks is a siren’s call, enchanting in its mystery but foreboding in its origin. Indeed, while the obfuscation and abstraction of Hilary Woods music weave a deep dark atmosphere to fall under, it is Woods’ voice the beckons us further into the doom-laden world of Birthmarks with a whisper. And while the path is dark, and we are unsure what lies further, this is a record that rewards those that follow.