One of the best musical triumphs of recent years has been the diversification and modernisation of folk music. A new generation of artists have grasped the traditions, sounds and soul of the genre; broken, transformed and added to them to suit their own personalities, and in doing so have created vibrant new sounds and energies that fit a contemporary world with a looser approach to conventions and rules.
One of the latest of this new breed of folk artists to emerge from the West is Bristol’s Natalie Holmes who has laced her folk influenced music with a pulsating pop heartbeat that gives it an accessibility and immediacy that gathers it some serious attention. Her new EP, Calm Places, is her fourth release and is a spectacular effort, presenting four tracks of heartfelt, emotional and atmospheric folk pop that burrow deeply into the listener’s soul.
The foundations of this collection are gently picked acoustic guitars and hushed, almost whispered vocals – so far, so folk. But each song is augmented with deftly handled additional instrumentation, hazy and lilting, that pushes the music into the realms of dream pop. But this is a more analogue version, with real string, wind and percussive sounds that brings a warmth and richness that synths can sometimes struggle to emulate. The music is flowing, graceful and calm, but with a driving pulse to it, giving it life and vitality, a heartbeat.
Lyrically deep, this is an EP that both brings sadness and hope; stories of discovery, positivity and finding a balance to life. It is a record that finds you in your dark places, comforts and soothes you and brings you out into the light. You get the impression that creating the EP was a cathartic experience for Holmes, that she had to dig deep into herself and pull these songs out as a cleansing of the soul. As a result, it has ended up as the kind of work that gives others a guiding path towards their own happiness and fulfilment, a map pointing towards the tranquillity of possibility.
Calm Places is out now and available to buy on bandcamp.