Within the sedate setting of St Pancras Old Church in London, Hilary Woods launched her debut album ‘Colt’ with an intimate live presentation.
It couldn’t have been any different from when at the age of 20, she found fame as the bassist of Irish indie trio JJ72. Going on to open for MUSE and COLDPLAY, Woods left the band in 2005 to pursue her passion for film, art and literature.
Woods started making music again in 2014 to begin the journey towards ‘Colt’, a highly personal collection recorded in an abandoned flat somewhere in Dublin. With an invitation from THE CURE’s Robert Smith to play at his Meltdown festival, it is an indication of the regard with which she is held by other musicians.
While ‘Colt’ itself combines piano, synths, field recordings and old string instruments, Woods accompanied herself alone on keyboards and guitar, save the occasional appearance by a violinist.
Opening with a stripped back version of 2016’s ‘Bathing’ from the ‘Heartbox’ EP, Woods’ wonderfully forlorn voice captivated throughout as she simultaneously transfixed herself to her ivory tinkling. It was an indicator of how the show would play out.
Under minimal lighting with a whispery allure in her voice, Woods excelled with her piano on ‘Take Him In’, while ‘Black Rainbow’ captured the serene essence of Julee Cruise.
Remembering absent friends, the gorgeous ‘Inhaler’ left those present breathless in awe at Woods’ previously hidden (to the public at least) range of capabilities.
One of the highlights from ‘Colt’, Woods’ rendition of ‘Jesus Said’ replicated the original, with the wonders of technology allowing its drifting synthesized tones and hypnotic drum machine to augment her beautiful piano passages. Described by the songstress herself as “a song that seeks catharsis”, its meditative trance-like quality was perfectly suited for the occasion.
A bare portrayal of ‘Prodigal Dog’ added some haunting moods while using loop pedals on ‘Limbs’, Woods built layer upon layer of string machine as a piano motif played out the coda.
‘Secret Sabbath’ from her first solo EP ‘Night’ affirmed the evening’s endearing understatement and with enigmatically nothing to say until before her closing semi-acoustic rendition of ‘Daughter’, Woods confessed to having nerves.
But she expressed her heartfelt appreciation of the attentive and informed audience who had gathered. With ‘Colt’ released by the highly regarded Sacred Bones Records who can count Zola Jesus, John Carpenter and David Lynch among their roster, the Irish songstress has proven she is worthy of belonging in such esteemed company.
With a wonderfully captivating performance of just eleven songs, Hilary Woods provided some welcome air and mystique to a world that has been infiltrated by far too many untalented wannabes playing out their lives in public on islands of love or whatever.
With thanks to Frankie Davison and Kate Price at Stereo Sanctity
‘Colt’ is released by Scared Bones Records in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats
Hilary Woods performs at Robert Smith’s Meltdown 2018 in the Purcell Room at London’s South Bank Centre on Wednesday 20th June and The Sugar Club in Dublin on Friday 14th September
Sacred Bones is home to many quirky acts; artists that have the very best of the alternative outlook on music and life.
Amongst Zola Jesus and John Carpenter plus the one and only David Lynch, the Irish songstress Hilary Woods feels like she belongs.
Since the music has been the driving force for the once band member of JJ72, with whom Woods (then a teenager) started her wild love affair with performing, it made sense for the multi-talented artist to cross over into film and visual arts.
Her early recordings culminated in the release of a couple of EPs, ‘Night’ and ‘Heartbox’. Writing film scores and theatre pieces gave way to the latest project from the multi-faceted Irish lady; ‘Colt’ is a very private and mysterious debut album, “an intensely personal journey through grief, abandonment, and mutating love”.
Written in an abandoned Dublin flat she was living in with her daughter using the equipment collected over the years, with synths, tape machines, and various odds and ends and utilising any other technology at hand, the “completely broke” Woods set off to create a “way to process and make sense of the everyday”.
Dealing with personal loss, sadness, pain and long lost love, the self-confessed minimalist begins the journey with ‘Inhaler’, a poignant cry for air. The simple piano with nothing much else but sparse strings and a voice of Julee Cruise, meanders through concepts of desolation and loss, eerily floating away Lynch style. What a perfectly dreamy start, but not without the punctuated feeling of uneasiness and dread, and that’s what makes Woods so special.
‘Prodigal Dog’ continues the weightless feel with a gentle rhythm and dedicate vocal, at times reminiscent of Dolores O’Riordan’s capabilities, while ‘Take Him In’ is a musicbox tale of abandonment sung in layered voices with only a piano to fall back on. ‘Kith’ brings strings in, simply showcasing the delicacies of Woods’ audio wizardry à la Marnie, pleading to her lover to “lay with me”, again culminating in palpable uncertainty and fear.
The only track with more prominent beats on ‘Colt’ is ‘Jesus Said’. In this semi-religious piece, arguing the existence of God and wanting her life back, with her child like expression, Woods experiments with offbeat piano sounds and other elements randomly added to create a cacophony of arty musical approach.
‘Sever’ returns to a simpler form with a metronomic beat, monochromatically embossed with a Kate Bush-resembling vocal, where the need to “sever these ties… they bide me” is expressed with found sounds in their simplest form over a grainy recording.
‘Black Rainbow’ could have easily been used by David Lynch in many of his productions, being particularly suited to ‘Twin Peaks’, with the stunning similarities to Julee Cruise’s style. This delicately placed track with its celestial qualities describes a sad ending of a beautiful relationship.
“‘Black Rainbow’ was so named because I loved that image, the idea that when that’s all one can see overhead / when a relationship is dying between two people that once loved each other very much – there is no choice but to believe that there is something better for you at the end of it all” says Woods.
The closing ‘Limbs’ offers no change of musical direction, continuing the heavenly serenity, the simplistic approach with delicate piano and bare vocal, and instrumentation sounding like a Japanese koto, with its soothing and fragile properties.
The concept for ‘Colt’ was to achieve “a siren’s song, once mysterious, dark and beautiful, pulling you in” and the Dublin based songwriter certainly achieves that with her first long player.
For Woods, the album was a perfect medium created “as a means to speak with inner voices, explore aloneness, and understand the complexities of desire. As a vehicle for imaginative flight, as a quest for resilience and connectivity to the outside world, as a medium through which to journey into the present, to temper the mind and inhabit the body.”
And for the listener, ‘Colt’ is the perfect calmer in the world full of noise, interruptions, deception and rejection. What the ex-JJ72 bassist has achieved here is a wonderfully balanced, beautifully exercised and marvellously presented piece, which has the power to cut through the ordinary and lift to higher levels of consciousness.
Hilary Woods, you’ve given us a beautiful album and proven that it’s not the endless supply of cash and fancy equipment that makes a great record; rather, it’s the talent and musical knowhow.
‘Colt’ is released on 8th June 2018 by Scared Bones Records
Hilary Woods 2018 live dates include: London St Pancras Old Church (11th June), Robert Smith’s Meltdown (20th June), Dublin The Sugar Club (14th September)
Hilary Woods was just 20 when she first found fame as the bassist of Irish trio JJ72.
‘Long Way South’, a percussive angst ridden slice of alternative rock in the manner of JOY DIVISION’s ‘She’s Lost Control’, reached the lower reaches of the UK singles charts in 2000.
Three hit singles ‘October Swimmer’, ‘Oxygen’ and ‘Snow’ followed but after two albums plus tours opening for MUSE and COLDPLAY, Woods left the band in 2003 to pursue her passion for film, art and literature.
In 2014, she started making music again with her resultant EPs ‘Night’ and ‘Heartbox’ both finding media acclaim. June 2018 sees the release of her debut album ‘Colt’, recorded on eight-track in an abandoned flat somewhere in Dublin and mixed in Berlin.
Combining piano, synths, field recordings, drones, occasional beats, old string instruments and Woods’ wonderfully forlorn voice recalling Julee Cruise, the record will be released by Sacred Bones Records, home of Zola Jesus, John Carpenter and David Lynch.
If the haunting new single ‘Prodigal Dog’ is anything to go by, the Irish songstress undoubtedly belongs in the company of her esteemed label mates. For its visual accompaniment, the predominantly monochromatic self-directed video captures the song’s dark and claustrophobic mood while allowing plenty of life into the earthy atmosphere.
With ‘Colt’ about to be unleashed and a prestigious appearance at Robert Smith’s Meltdown 2018 following not long after, Hilary Woods kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about her return…
‘Colt’ is very different from your musical past with JJ72, what inspired you to head in a more ethereal direction after your time away from music?
It’s what came out and what naturally arose when I sat down at the piano on my own. I can’t pinpoint one particular inspirational force behind it, I do think though creating music on your own is a very different beast to a band context and that in itself shapes the material.
They often say art is a reflection of life, how has yours been these last few years?
I’m in my music and my music is in me but we all live many inner lives through the course of our day. I feel all art reflects strands of what preoccupies us, but not all strands.
Is the album a reaction to your past?
I’m not sure if it reacts as much as dialogues with a lot of elements from different stretches of time. The act of making the record no matter what time / where the songs were drawing from, was very much a present thing.
You opted to blend acoustic with electronic, had there been any temptation to keep things purer or were synths a malleable aesthetic that you couldn’t resist?
A malleable aesthetic I couldn’t resist.
The EPs ‘Night’ and ‘Heartbox’ helped you dip your feet back in the water, how important were they in helping to realise your own sound?
Very. I have a different relationship to both of them, ‘Night’ gave me confidence. You learn by doing about what works and what doesn’t.
Speaking of dipping your feet in, ‘Bathing’ was a particular highlight of those two releases…
What I like most about ‘Bathing’ is that it has evolved live into something I’m currently more connected to. The video took months and was a painstaking undertaking!
Did the deal with Sacred Bones Records come out of the blue?
No, we had been in conversation for a while.
‘Inhaler’ is something of a beauty and a fine trailer for the album. What’s that about and how did that come together?
‘Inhaler’ is about feeling the presence of someone who is absent and a longing to return to how things once were between two people. I recorded many different versions of it, and spent a long time playing around with sounds.
‘Black Rainbow’ sounds like it could have appeared on the soundtrack of ‘Twin Peaks’?
It does have a tone of ‘Twin Peaks’, atmospherically it reminds me of a dystopian 50s dancehall.
Rhythms are not particularly prevalent on this album, although there are percussive elements to ‘Prodigal Dog’. Has this template been conscious for ‘Colt’?
Rhythm is key in all the songs just not in a percussive sense, although there is a strong presence of beats but certainly not on every track. I ran with what felt most natural for the record as a whole.
‘Jesus Said’ is one of the stand-out tracks and one which uses actually mechanical beats, so what inspired that one musically and lyrically?
I think it’s a song that seeks catharsis, it reminds me of a spinning dervish that works itself up into a trance except one that is grounding, gets into the bones.
There’s some lovely piano on ‘Jesus Said’ and ‘Take Him In’, what is your training as far as keyboards is concerned?
I sit down at the piano every day. It’s the instrument I feel most at home on, so that would be my training ground.
You’re going to be taking ‘Colt’ out on the road, what format will these shows take and how are you feeling about them?
I will be playing solo shows, the record is intimate and so is the live show. It’s stripped back, I’m looking forward to them.
How do you hope things may develop over time for you?
I’d like to keep excavating, playing, writing, making and doing what I love.
The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Hilary Woods
Additional thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity
‘Colt’ is released on 8th June 2018 by Scared Bones Records in CD, Vinyl LP and digital formats
Hilary Woods 2018 live dates include:
London St Pancras Old Church (11th June), Robert Smith’s Meltdown (20th June), Dublin The Sugar Club (14th September)
“My childhood was elegant homes, tree-lined streets, the milkman, building backyard forts, droning airplanes, blue skies, picket fences, green grass, cherry trees. Middle America as it’s supposed to be. But on the cherry tree there’s this pitch oozing out – some black, some yellow, and millions of red ants crawling all over it. I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath. Because I grew up in a perfect world, other things were a contrast”.
And so we are invited to go in; into the mysteriously twisted, sickening at times, never straightforward world of David Lynch. One likes the arts and photography, another excels in music, or vocals, few make good films, while the rest write or paint; Lynch has done it all. Having introduced his unparalleled strangeness into American film making and being true to his own ideas, the “madman” (as Mel Brooks called him), even refused to direct ‘The Return Of The Jedi’, claiming that Lucas would do it better his way.
Meeting Angelo Badalamenti, while filming his hugely successful ‘Blue Velvet’, proved to be the start of a captivating musical relationship, which Lynch has proven to treasure till today.
Angelo Badalamenti, whose superlative musical understanding led to various working relationships with many a pop and rock band, with Pet Shop Boys, Orbital, Tim Booth, Anthrax, Marianne Faithful and others, all creating electrifying soundscapes with a little help of the virtuoso.
As Lynch’s films gained critical acclaim worldwide, his musical interests and collaborations grew in parallel.
Who directed a 2011 Duran Duran gig streamed live from Mayan Theater in LA? Lynch did…
Who collaborated with Interpol on ‘I Touch a Red Button Man’ animation? Lynch did…
Who directed Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Came Back Haunted’ video? Lynch did… (incidentally striking a further musical pact with Reznor)
Photo by Michel Delsol/Getty Images
As it often appears, happenstance creates the optimal conditions for working relationships, and that’s exactly what happened with Lynch and Cruise.
The ethereal sounding, dainty Julee may have never worked with the visionary, if it wasn’t for the fact that Lynch couldn’t use Tim Buckley’s ‘Song To The Siren’ covered by This Mortail Coil in a key scene of ‘Blue Velvet’. As an alternative, he commissioned Badalamenti to compose a song of similar feel, with lyrics by Lynch.
As someone had to sing ‘Mysteries Of Love’, Badalamenti recommended Cruise, known for her sublime voice. Recently the rather talented Kid Moxie re-visited the tune with Badalamenti , putting her own spin onto the Badalamenti/Lynch hit.
And so enter ‘Twin Peaks’; first aired in 1990 on ABC, later being taken off air due to dwindling popularity, the series was far more than the crime drama with a twist, expected by the fans of Lynch. Having teamed with Mark Frost, the master created a cult program, which is often described as one of the best TV series ever.
The story of the death of young and beautiful Laura Palmer, set in idyllic landscapes of rural Washington state, and the search for her murderer has, for years, evoked fear, lust, wonder and interest into the metaphysical and mystical.
Needless to say, a correct musical setting was necessary to depict the uncertainty, terror and weirdness of the events unfolding in, otherwise, quiet town of Twin Peaks.
A quiet town… at least that’s what one expects on the surface; but Twin Peaks has its own dark secrets. The horrors and wrongdoings that underline the death of Laura Palmer are palpable and Lynch made sure that his take on the human immorality is fully stamped on his characters.
Cruise was again chosen to perform a number of songs, and Badalamenti provided the musical mysticism, resulting in a multi-million selling soundtrack to the series, even with the tracks being largely instrumental.
But within those magical non word pieces, lay three acutely polished gems, all performed by Cruise. ‘Falling’, acting as the theme tune, must be, by far, one of the most recognised songs that go with any TV series.
Cruise further benefitted from the Lynch/Badalamenti collaboration by releasing her first album ‘Floating Into The Night’, which housed ‘Falling’, ‘Into The Night’ and ‘Nightingale’, all used in ‘Twin Peaks’.
‘Rocking Back Inside My Heart’ is one of the songs performed by Cruise live on stage at the Twin Peaks bar everyone gathers at, with most of the young female characters singing to it.
‘Falling’ has been so popular, that a number of artists decided to cover it, and further inspirations appeared by Apoptygma Berzerk, Bright Light Bright Light, The Joy Formidable, The Wedding Present and many others. The latest cover is, interestingly enough, performed by Chrysta Bell, who appears in the Twin Peaks revival series, and has been involved in working with Lynch for many years.
Joined by LA based music magician and celebrated producer John Fryer, Bell provides a synthy rendition, which is a true testament to the song’s longevity and prowess.
Lynch and Badalamenti also produced ‘Summer Kisses Winter Tears’, which, originally by Elvis Presley, was covered by Cruise and featured in ‘Until The End Of The World’ movie. A wonderfully presented come back of the 50s, with dreamy guitar and lazy piano, floating over the consciousness, not without an underlying uncertainty, however.
Chrysta Bell met Lynch in 1999 and the pair have collaborated since, with the master co-writing two of her albums. Her stunning song written with the director himself, ‘Polish Poem’, was featured in the closing scenes of ‘Inland Empire’. Not only is it hauntingly beautiful, but depicts the end of the movie in a sublime manner.
But Lynch sings himself too, oh yes! ‘Good Day Today’ is minimal electro, breaking into the popular culture, with heavily melodyned vocal pleading for the want of having “a good day today”. The lensman wants to be sent an angel, and complains of tiredness over a fast paced, catchy beat; all this happening against a back drop of a disturbingly Lynchian video.
Karen O joins the magician on ‘Pinky’s Dream’, which has been skilfully remixed by Trentemøller into an electronic burst of metallic beats and heavy bass. Together with ‘Good Day Today’, both taken from ‘Crazy Clown Time’, the first album by Lynch, the tracks have been described as having serious electro pop influences.
‘I’m Waiting Here’, performed by the Swedish singer and songwriter Lykke Li, found itself on Lynch’s second album ‘The Big Dream’. Featuring a video, which could have been taken from any of Lynch’s productions, the dreamy arrangement gets abruptly cut off by unexplained noise and the uncertainty is ushered, breaking off the waltzing style of the music. This is what David is about; nothing is ever perfectly straightforward.
He remixes too… ‘Evangeline’ by John Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen was masterfully adapted by the filmmaker. It’s gritty, dirty and fragmented: mechanical in texture. It feels like observing the intricate workings of a Swiss watch, while on blow, being surrounded by robots.
Moby has collaborated with the master for years too. This includes video directing, interviews and remixes. ‘Go’ was largely influenced by the Twin Peaks theme, which is sampled here, and it sold a staggering two million copies. And now Richard Melville Hall stars as the guitar player in Rebekah Del Rio’s band, performing live in Part 10 of ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival.
The Lynch collaborations are endlessly eclectic when it comes to genre and style. From ambient, pop, rock, via synth, classical and experimental. The working relationship with Marek Zebrowski, a Polish-American composer, also started during the production of ‘Inland Empire’, part of which was shot in Łódź. As both displayed interests in musical experimentation and improvisation, a concept evolved under the name of ‘Polish Night Music’.
More recently the hungry fans of the original ‘Twin Peaks’ series have been in for a treat. Lynch has always stressed that the story of Laura Palmer wasn’t complete and this year has seen the revival series hit the television screens. When Julee Cruise happily took to the stage in the original series, dazzling with a plethora of eerie, ethereal notes and semi-shy demeanour; the Revival brings plenty of musical surprises, inviting different performers to do their own sets in The Bang Bang Bar, a roadhouse in Twin Peaks. Each episode features a live performance from handpicked musicians, many of whom have a long history of association with the film master.
First off, Chromatics showcase ‘Shadow’, the video to which reminds of the Black Lodge’s red curtains. The Portland based band has undergone many a member change, but ‘Shadow’ certainly proves that the current set up is perfect. The track is Badalamenti dreamy, still bearing the electronic sounds of the now, and as an opener to the newest of the tales of the sleepy Washington town, it blends in nicely.
Au Revoir Simone from New York picks up the baton in Part 4, following The Cactus Blossoms. ‘Lark’ keeps in with the intangible atmosphere, leading through to Trouble’s ‘Snake Eyes’. An Americana rock and roll style, with added sexy saxophone and jazzy influences, this instrumental track leads into Part 6, with Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Tarifa’. With the copious amounts of folksy soothing day dream, the quirky vocal and bluesy elements, at times a la Fleetwood Mac, it’s a perfect summer evening track.
None other than Lynch’s old collaborator Trent Reznor comes back to mingle with the master yet again, after having worked on the score for ‘Lost Highway’, and Nine Inch Nails’ video for ‘Came Back Haunted’. This time taking the role of a goth band frontman, the leather clad Reznor and co, take to the Roadhouse stage to deliver ‘She’s Gone Away’.
As the first band to be actually introduced by an MC, NIN hauntingly induce their semi psychedelic, disturbingly mish-mashed track full of guitars over Reznor’s seductive male interceptions. Backing vocals are provided by Mrs Reznor, Marqueen Maandig.
Hudson Mohawke takes the DJ reins on ‘Human’ in Part 9, while Au Revoir Simone returns in the same episode with ‘A Violet Yet Flammable World’, which begins with a similar beat to Depeche Mode’s classic ‘Ice Machine’, to develop into an all girl extravaganza of voice and purely electronic sound, reminiscent of Marsheaux.
Rebekah Del Rio delivers memorable rendition of ‘No Stars’ written by Lynch. The Latin-American songstress has been a muse for the filmmaker for years, providing a cameo appearance in ‘Mulholland Drive’ to perform a Spanish a cappella performance of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’. In ‘Twin Peaks’, she is seen in a dress with a pattern reminiscent of the Black Lodge floor, ushers in a stunning vocal, both in English and Spanish. Yet another classic ‘Twin Peaks’ track.
What follows in Part 11, is a twist: a beautifully composed piano piece ‘Heartbreaking’ performed by Count Smokula.
Chromatics return in the next episode with instrumental ‘Saturday’, while the ominous number 13 brings the original series’ familiar James Marshall with ‘Just You’, which also appears on ‘Twin Peaks Music: Season Two Music and More’.
Folksy Lissie performs ‘Wild West’, just where David Bowie appears for the first time in Cole’s dream as Phillip Jeffries of ‘Fire Walk With Me’ movie.
Bowie moves back in in Episode 15, which is wrapped up by The Veils performing ‘Axolotl’. The London based indie band has been yet another of Lynch’s favourites chosen to perform live in Twin Peaks and they don’t disappoint with the quasi electronic, gripping tune, which injects a further dose of fear and uncertain weirdness so typical of Lynch’s disciples.
Number 16 showcases none other than Pearl Jam’s finest, Eddie Vedder, introduced as Edward Louis Severson with ‘Out Of Sand’. The fact that Vedder had been listed as a cast member well before the episode aired, created a stir and many fans eagerly awaited his performance at the Bang Bang Bar. Although the tune had been available prior to the premiere of Part 16, EV toned it down to acoustic guitar as the only instrument accompanying his hauntingly hungry voice.
Interestingly enough Vedder isn’t in the closing titles; Audrey Horne gets to perform ‘Audrey’s Dance’ once more, with a more sinister ending however.
The real treat wraps up Episode 17, with none other than Julee Cruise returning beautifully to finish the part, where Cooper and co go back to the past to try and save Laura Palmer. Julee’s second to none, ethereally magical voice on ‘The World Spins’ is an ultimate tribute to the whole of the series, with Number 18 (being the last) stripped off the, now familiar, musical end.
If anyone wanted answers in the Revival series, they’re probably banging their heads against the wall (or are getting tangled in the Black Lodge curtains), because more questions were introduced and the aura of weirdness has been intensified to almost mystical levels. Has the evil been eradicated? We don’t think so.
Have we got a happy ending? Certainly not so.
But isn’t that what Lynch is all about?
Riddles, riddles, riddles…
And what’s next for the genius? More music perhaps? Who knows, but with the wealth of experiences from the master over the years; musical or visual, haven’t we all been in for a treat?