Hilary Woods’ Acts of Light is the third full-length release in the Irish artist’s catalogue of enveloping drones, following on from the discomforting forms that snaked through 2021’s Feral Hymns. Having already established a track record of skin-invading frequencies, Woods returns on Acts of Light with nine resonant confrontations of self.

It’s an incredibly difficult type of music to describe. Mostly because I find the drone, noise and ambient genres to be more sensory than any other. With such atmospheric, moody music, textures, smells, tastes and especially imagery are all called into mind. So, having let Acts of Light loose onto myself as a late night and early morning ritual, the following is what was conjured up.

The creeping drones present throughout Acts of Light seem to illicit bodily reverberations. Slipping into the body through headphones, these omnipresent sounds reverberate through bodily chasms ceaselessly. Some songs – like ‘Blood Orange’ or the titular track – seem to throb from within, like an ache or bodily rhythm. The unsettling majesty of these sounds feels inescapable, and resultingly it is easy to feel a deep sense of loneliness as all sound outside of Acts of Lights nine dirges is snatched away. The choral voices that simultaneously seep into and emerge from the primordial drone of the record make the album feel like both the presence of some unknowable cosmic entity, and the sensation of being unavoidably alone with yourself. This evokes a deep vulnerability as you are essentially disarmed by the all-encompassing tide Woods unleashes.

The choral voices that fuse into coarse, droning strings give a spiritual tone that has long underpinned Hilary Woods’ sound. The naming of previous outing Feral Hymns is enough to encompass the imagery that Woods’ palette can call into focus. There is an unshakeable presence to the sounds that inhabit the record – in equal measure an unfeeling force of nature and the weighty breaths of an inconceivable being. Near Lovecraftian and yet deeply intimate. The thick shroud of opaque, constantly shifting music that Woods constructs here blot out the sense until only Acts of Light is perceivable.

For 31 minutes, Acts of Light is a constant haunting presence, both unnerving and irreconcilably endearing. A phantom wrestling with the weight of the unnegotiable forces of life – love, loss and the infinite void.

Hilary Woods: Acts of Light – Out 3rd November 2023 (Sacred Bones)

Woods – Burial Rites (Official Video) – YouTube