Review Summary: One of the most blissfully beautiful albums you’ll hear all year (read further for caveats) The Quiet Drift
is only Hollie Kenniff’s second solo release, following 2019’s The Gathering Dawn
, but her surname has far wider associations than simply those two albums. She additionally forms one half of the dream pop-ish partnership Mint Julep alongside husband Keith Kenniff, and her spouse is also the man behind the projects Helios and Goldmund (ambient and neoclassical piano, respectively). All this is to say that the Kenniffs come pretty close to that ever-elusive concept, the “power couple”, or at least as near as a duo can get in the sphere of ambient music.
While not quite an instrumental release, The Quiet Drift
is an album without intelligible lyrics. As such, it takes a bit more detective work to determine the atmospheric stylings Kenniff aimed to pursue here. One clue is in the album art, which evokes a certain “lonely in a crowd” feeling as well as an undeniable nostalgic quality. Another is the song titles, which seem to primarily express a focus on nature, as with “Four Sides Of The Forest” and “Sunset Chant”. Meanwhile, the name of the album is a brilliant stroke for this sort of music, sounding authoritative while also remaining vague enough to be associated with nearly any theme a listener chooses to concoct. In Kenniff’s own explanation of the album’s origins, though, the name is described as referring to numerous moves in her life from one location to another, and the idea that an individual can retain a certain rootedness despite changes in physical surroundings. She cites childhood memories of the Canadian province of Ontario, mentioning that “the landscape and pace of life of these places will always stay with me”. Ultimately, the essence of the music presented on The Quiet Drift
manages to capture a bit of all these influences, weaving together a potent mix of longing and solace which, in the right mood, will bring back to the listener a parade of half-remembered scenes out of the past.
The bulk of The Quiet Drift
can be easily described as shimmering ambient, casually gorgeous music meant for getting lost in thoughtful reveries. Above the droning, crystalline notes, Kinneff’s wordless vocals soar as just another instrument. There’s a post-rock vibe to many of the pieces, although the track lengths are significantly shorter and the music less energetic than is typical of that genre. A few songs stand out with distinctive characteristics (such as “Still Falling Snow”, with its pulsating beats, or “The Feathered Fog”, which is reminiscent of Hammock’s more ambient side by adding a smidgen of shoegaze influence and more prominent vocals), and the artist’s husband earns a feature for Goldmund by providing piano on two tracks. However, for the most part the LP flows from one song to another seamlessly.
This is an immaculately beautiful record, lush and dreamy, everything you could want in a release of this style. With all that said, this is very much an album for a niche audience, not designed with catchiness, technicality, or riffs (God forbid) in mind. If approached with the wrong mindset, not only is The Quiet Drift
unlikely to impress, but it also will probably be remarkably boring. Indeed, even under the best of circumstances, not every moment here is likely to be particularly gripping, but this is an album which can be thrown on in the background until the listener eventually succumbs to the music’s gentle sway. While I can’t read her mind, I get the feeling that Hollie Kenniff has successfully crafted exactly what she set out to: a meditative piece of soothing melancholy which will probably reach only a fairly small audience, but will be widely beloved within that select few.