4AD welcomes songwriter and producer Benjamin Woods and his project, the GOLDEN DREGS, to the roster.
Hailing from Cornwall – a county in south-west England that draws thousands of tourists on holiday, and where thousands of locals could never hope of affording one – Woods grew up with a keen awareness of that gap between idealism and reality. the GOLDEN DREGS’ third album, On Grace & Dignity, is released on 10 February 2023 and considers his home and what it means to be shaped by a place – in this instance, Truro, Cornwall’s capital, home to a rare three-spired cathedral, a peaceful river and a lot of empty shops and flimsy out-of-town housing estates. Written, recorded and produced by Woods from his South London home and childhood bedroom in Truro, it was mixed by Ali Chant (Perfume Genius, Aldous Harding) who provided additional production.
On Grace & Dignity’s origins lie in winter 2020 when Woods lost his job in lockdown and moved back to his parents’ house. The only work he could get was as a labourer on a poorly run building site on the grimmest outskirts of Truro. “It was such a bleak winter – waist-deep in mud digging holes and rolling out turf on top of building waste, really grim stuff, which became the backdrop to the stories I was trying to write,” he adds, citing Raymond Carver, Lydia Davis and Richard Hugo as influences.
In among the personal reflections on loss of innocence and inferiority, Woods spins subtly interweaving narratives about survival, desperate acts of violence, loss and the limitations of community in the face of rapacious gentrification. Nevertheless, it is, appropriately for an album about home, somewhere you’ll want to spend a while. Life here proceeds at a graceful pace grounded by Woods’s deep voice, which seems to resonate from his feet as he delivers the sort of meticulously written lunar wisdom worthy of Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, or the tidy yet revelatory koans of Silver Jews’ David Berman.
For the On Grace & Dignity artwork, he’s commissioned Bristol-based model-maker Edie Lawrence to construct an HO-scale fictional Cornish town. Christened Polgras, the 8 ft by 4 ft model features a viaduct, an estuary, a supermarket, new-build houses and industrial buildings; every song from On Grace & Dignity is represented by a scene in the town. “There’s different parts of the experience of growing up in Cornwall in there,” he says. “Some of it was from me looking at it when I was down there that winter, and some of it was me harking back to the experience of growing up there. It’s defined by that sense of duality, of coexisting realities,” he explains. “You’re geographically so far away, and it has a strong identity of its own, as well as a different landscape. It’s so rugged and bleak, but beautiful – which is what I really like in music.”