Boomkat Product Review:
Hilary Woods, notoriously one time member of JJ72, builds on the arid mystery of 2021's genius 'Feral Hymns' with the crepuscular 'Acts of Light', featuring nine creeping dirges played on double bass, field recordings and choral chants that sound like mournful, Celtic ghosts wailing into a moonlit woodland. Brilliantly unsettling material, tipped for anyone into GAS, Deathprod, György Ligeti or Antonina Nowacka.
Woods’ last album ‘Feral Hymns’ married surreptitious vocal hooks with Lasse Marhaug’s petrified, doomcore production, a highly distinctive alignment of cursed atmospherics and memorable songs that still sounds like pretty much nothing else we’ve heard since. Its followup ‘Isolation Tank’ was essentially a screwed audio diary, creating rhythms out of the clicking whirr of an old polaroid camera, drifting into abstraction.
Clearly, Woods is no stranger to getting deep into her process, and on 'Acts of Light' she increases the tension, ramping up her Vantablack striations. Voices blur on 'Wife Mother Lover Cow', as euphoric pads swelter into mist; like spying a midnight ritual from a safe vantage point. Choral vapours gather on 'Where the Bough has Broken', recorded with the Palestrina Choir at Dublin's Procathedral, and with Galway City Chamber Choir in Galway, crashing into environmental recordings Woods made during travels across Spain.
The title track pits pitched vocals against low, unstable murmurs, while strings provide an ominous sustained drone. Woods strips things back further on 'Awakening', giving us a short respite from the crippling gloom with angelic chorals and gauzy cello, before the disorienting heartbeat 'Blood Orange' transports us into another lysergic reality, like some fantasy GAS reworking of György Ligeti.
'The Foot of Love' is the album's most emotionally exposed moment, wafting poetic curls of ornate instrumentation into fogged dark ambience that wouldn't sound out of place on an Akira Rabelais album, leading masterfully into Woods' denouement 'Vigil', freezing phantasmagoric vocals in a sodden mess of cello and captured rainfall. It's the perfect finale to an album that escorts us through a wild, dusky wilderness that's never oppressive, always tender in its own way.