Album Review: Marcus Woods - Self-Portrait

Album Review: Marcus Woods - Self-Portrait
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Marcus Woods
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After months of teasing and anticipation, one of Dublin's hottest up and coming DJs and producers, Marcus Woods, has finally released his debut album Self-Portraits. Relaunder the Burner Records banner he co-founded with his musical family of Fynch, Sick Nanley, Local Boy and ARBU

Woods has been working and perfecting his craft for years now. As one of the youngest prodigies coming out of the Clondalkin suburb in Dublin, Woods has been consistently releasing music since he was sixteen years old. With a mixture of EPs, singles and collaboration projects with artists such as Silent Ghost, Actualacid and Rebel Phoenix, Woods has established a cult following, and with a stellar festival run that included performances at Longitude and Electric Picnic, he has become one of the ones to watch. With all this weight and anticipation, Marcus Woods embark on an inward journey through the medium of music and it is as insightful as it's interesting. 

Self-Portrait is a 10-track, 43-minute mosaic of feelings and emotions experienced by Marcus Woods. These emotions are what makes Marcus's human but he chooses to portray these sounds in the most non-human sound choices and blends. The album is an ambient walk through the experiences of Marcus Woods as he bounces back from admittedly what was the worse few months of his life. This albums feels like recovery and this recovery starts with a purpose. 

Self-Portrait kicks off with the incredible "How To Do Nothing". This nine minute prologue puts the listener on the game board that is this album. The luscious blend of pads and synths builds into a more rhythmically backed section that peaks our attention, turning as soon as the bass comes in. Instantly, the feeling becomes dark and dull with an eerie addition in some piano keys that play a slow, lurking melody. The passage continues on the rollercoaster as it becomes more musical with hints of woodwinds and strings, then seamlessly blends into what feels like morse code as the track comes to a close. The static adds a feeling of life to the end as it transitions into the second track. 

"Repose Tactics" served as the lead single for the album and was a reminder of what the album was supposed to be before Woods hit the inevitable mental health wall he hit during the creation process. Loud and brash, the track is a standout but the real meat and potatoes of this track is how excellent the transition in and out of the track. This should've served as a breaking point in the album and coming this early could've been really detrimental to the album but Woods masterfully transitions between tracks that doesn't break the stream of consciences. 

"Radiohead" gives me some Japanese vibes that remind me of Wood's side project Mt. Fuji. The calming pads blended with the distorted background noise along with the nature foley creates a soundscape of peace e and tranquility. This song sounds like healing. The woodwinds toward the end give this sense of discovery as we transition into the next track. 

The next track "Eye Contact" is the feeling of discovery extended. The synth based organs blended with pads and ambient background sounds create an aura and glow to this song that reminds me of love and love at first sight. The way Woods uses distortion stands out on the album, but specifically in this track. The interesting layer the the distorted twisted noise that Woods uses as almost a signature sound adds a level of sharp intention to his ambient sound. 

"Temporary Onism" see's the first collaboration on this album. Actualacid and Marcus Woods are no stranger to collaborating after the recent release of "Smith" and chemistry is still very much in abundance on Self-Portrait. This track is dark, grimy take with very interestingly layered ghostly, high pitched vocals floating throughout the listener's field of hearing. It's a refreshing change of pace, and this continues in the next track which is titled "BCBCF2". This collaboration with Silent Ghost served as the second single from the album. Toward the end you begin to feel this ascension as the song rises to an amazing crescendo. 


"Technicolor" serves as the most accessible track on the project, and is driven by a slamming kick drum. The shimmering arpeggio in the high-pitched vocals creates something very easy for anyone to listen to. I would find the rest of the album's contents to be a little challenging for the untrained ear but this track would sit right in any playlist on Spotify. "Ctenophora" follows, a moody listen with airy synths and pads sitting right in the pocket. This track has a noticeable lack of rhythmic movement but Woods creates this sense of movement in how he layers his sounds together. We are building to a final drop of the album and "Ctenophora" is a necessary building block toward this climax or conclusion. 

"R.E.M" is the penultimate listen of this project. The vocals used in this track add a great sense of texture and the addition of trap influenced 808's and sputtering hi-hats make this track much more than just another wavy, ambient listen. This track reminds more of the Marcus Woods we got to experience on Global Warming with Dublin's finest Rebel Phoenix. As the tracks builds and reaches its crescendo you feel almost cocooned in the web that Woods is spinning. 

The aptly titled "I III II II IIIIII (III III II III IIIII)" closes out the LP in stunningly subtle fashion. The credits are rolling as this track trickles to a close. You feel at ease, at peace almost. You have just experienced Marcus Woods in his purest form. The journey has wrapped and it's time to get off the rollercoaster. What a ride it has been. 

Marcus Woods is by far one of the most exciting talents coming off this island currently. The Burner Records co-founder has not only mastered the art of consistency but he has, on this album, mastered the art of telling stories without words. You feel every single emotion he wants you to feel through just his musical choices and theory. His storytelling is to be revered and reassured. This was an ambitious and astonishingly beautiful debut LP. 

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