12th January 2024
UK ambient musician Dau returns to Phantom Limb’s Spirituals imprint with the elegiac beauty and organic, breathing ambience of new album Gilly’s Wood, recorded on location in South Kent’s memorial woods of the same name.
The project of UK musician Phil Self, Dau coalesces years of wide musical experiences. Self is a member of numerous projects, including acclaimed UK instrumental sextet yndi halda, and is a contributor to Kent’s acclaimed Smugglers Festival, with its close links to Total Refreshment Centre and accompanying creative circles.
Gilly's Wood was made entirely from reed organ and improvisations recorded in the hawthorn wood that lends its name to the album, two weeks after the 2021 edition of Smugglers Festival, which occurs at the same site. Self explains that, as his partner had contracted Covid, he had to leave his equipment onsite in the woods. When he eventually returned to collect it, the improvised recordings he took on the spot formed the basis of his new album, birdsong and all. “I spent two hours playing reed organ on my own (with the birds) in the woods, recording it all on a Tascam field recorder,” he writes. “The record is made entirely of these recordings – some are used as whole songs and some are sampled and turned into new musical ideas.”
Following lockdown and the return to live music events, Self reflects on his role at Smugglers Festival as one of immense significance to his own creative life. “A celebration and ritual that marks the end of one part of the year and the start of the next,” he says. “As such, Gilly’s Wood can be seen as a love letter to the return of the festival, the land, and everyone that has been a part of it.” Whereas previous album Zed Zed (2021) was made entirely in isolation, in the privacy and modest size of Self’s home studio, the recordings that make up Gilly’s Wood were made in an open and expansive space, decorated only by the natural environment, quietude and stillness. A place that only two weeks prior had been filled with people and life and euphoria, was now solitary and reflective.