Mimicking the distant and airy vocal style of gothic queen Chelsea Wolfe (as well as borrowing from some of her dark electronic soundscapes), Hilary Woods has created a deep, dark atmosphere over the three tracks of the Heartbox EP.
There is an air of smoky jazz in opening track ‘Bathing’, the simple chord changes slowly moving the listener forward through a twinkling world of pretty piano lines and lush synth pads. The piano used throughout Hilary’s compositions adds an almost classical sheen to proceedings and brings an element of human connection that otherwise might be lost amongst the electronic backdrop.
The title track shifts things up a gear in terms of energy, a stronger drumbeat driving this number ahead. The hints of more acoustic instrumentation are strongest here, a melodic bass line providing the most musical interest, with Hilary’s voice a ghostly whisper gently overlaying the reverberating wash.
The cool distance of Hilary’s voice is highlighted most clearly on closing track ‘Sabbath’, with a phone-like effect pushing her simple, innocent tones further into the vacuum left by the sparse instrumentation. This track is the longest, and its strength comes when it appears to be dying away halfway through only to surge back with a textural build to emotional waves of layered sound.
Although the Heartbox EP is certainly a pleasant, gothic-toned experience to listen to, its consistently ethereal aesthetic unfortunately leads it to easily blend into the background rather than holding your attention, even for its relatively short duration. Of course, ethereal music is no bad thing in and of itself, but Heartbox seems to lack the necessary undercurrent of substance for the ears to cling to amongst the synthesised ambience. There is much to enjoy in this very nice release, but perhaps its niceness is what is holding it back from being truly great.