wears the trousers magazine

woodpecker wooliams: diving down (2009)
November 13, 2009, 2:23 pm
Filed under: album, review | Tags: ,


Woodpecker Wooliams
Diving Down •••
Autumn Ferment

Woodpecker Wooliams is the homemade alter ego of a rather talented young lady more conventionally named Gemma Williams. Having given up training to be a midwife following some pretty nasty seizures, the Brighton native relocated to the Devon countryside and set her sights on crafting delicate tunes rather than catching babies on exit. Luckily, she turned out to be pretty good at it, employing a formidable array of instruments to create an immersive listening experience, if not quite achieving uniqueness (she’s been compared to Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom more times than is healthy for an up and coming singer-songwriter).

Diving Down was recorded in an 800 year old cottage below a Devonshire castle, and the spirit of the building seems to have seeped into the record through the mixing desk. Much of the album sounds as though it might just as easily have been made in 1009 as 2009, with plucked strings, recorders, glockenspiels and the whiff of a wood fire surrounding Williams’s slight but self-assured voice. That said, opening track ‘Put A Bird’ is reminiscent of Vespertine-era Björk with its sparse production and glassy delivery. Mournful and hypnotic, it gently draws us into the neo-medieval soundscape Williams has created for her debut. She asks, “What’s the use of a bird that cannot fly” or “a girl who will not sing”, perhaps expressing her frustration at having to steer her life in a new direction following her illness.

Things get considerably perkier on ‘The Lamentable Love Of The Barometer’, which borders on the ridiculous as it’s so entrenched in The Middle Ages. ‘Perm’ and ‘Diving Down’ are much more subtle and less prone to cliché, showing a mature and complex approach to songwriting that hints at hidden depths to be explored with repeated listens. Williams leaves the best until last, though, with a hidden track called ‘Wife’, in which the narrator, having been dumped by her lover, walks half naked into the sea to drown. It’s a stark suicide note with a minimal arrangement that really does deserve the overused adjective of ‘haunting’.

Diving Down is a short album that crams a lot, both musically and emotionally, into just over half an hour. Williams might need to develop her sound further to escape the constant comparisons with those who shall not be named, but far from plumbing the depths, it looks like this modern day minstrel is on the way up.

Richard Steele
UK release date: 20/08/09; www.myspace.com/woodpeckerwooliams


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