This November, Mint Julep vocalist Hollie Kenniff will release her debut solo album, The Gathering Dawn. As apt a title as this is, Kenniff’s music also brings a warmth to the spirit. Her sunrise signals the first light of day. Sustaining synths, mirage-like guitars, and her beautiful voice all coalesce to create an intoxicating ambient haze – music of protection and invitation.
A lot of music is built on expectation, and her regular, repeating melodies offer this great comfort. Although they follow blurry harmonic patterns, her ambient soundscapes feel unanchored, and her vocal isn’t grounded, either. As such, The Gathering Dawn feels ascendant, rising like vapour, as free as a bird in flight. The reverb is ever-present, and Kenniff wraps her vocal in an ambient duvet, making it soft and comforting. It ascends, it descends, it repeats. The music breathes in this space, channelling a natural rhythm.
Behind the scenes, the process of making such music is anything but tranquil. It takes a lot of effort and work to make something so effortless and serene. Her voice haunts the space, sometimes appearing as a spectre, crying in anguish at something lost, sometimes sighing in contentment, and sometimes singing from a wound in the heart. The vocal isn’t saccharine and it doesn’t broadcast the clichéd fluttering sighs of new age music, where everything is more than fine. Her believable-yet-dream-like vocal brings a faint light, and it’s also capable of darkening the music – but only by a fraction. The dawn is just arriving, after all. This is the sound of first light; the gathering.
While her boundless vocal wanders this way and that, strobing synths light up the street, and their light filters in, colouring in her world. The shimmering lights are not yet complete, and neither does Kenniff’s vocal reveal too much. Her voice is like sunlight, exposing the world and expunging it from total darkness. There’s a deep intensity to The Gathering Dawn, because her whispers convey more than words ever could. Its ambient world is well-fed, and textures are dense and full. Her voice is almost elemental, a natural addition to the air; a reassuring presence, already wrapped up in warm clothes thanks to the thicker background. The dawn will take away the night. Her gathering dawn will make you believe that better things are to come.