UK-based acoustic folk singer, songwriter and multi instrumentalist Nicki Wells has appeared on this blog once before. In May this year she came to my attention thanks to her emotional song Holy Smoke. I found it to be a lush, unconventional piece with the perfect balance of warmth and melancholy. So, when I saw that she had a new album out, I knew I had to give it a listen. It’s called Ellipsis.
By Graeme Smith
Feature photo by Ananya Tanttu
With her new album, Nicki combines classical influences from around the world. There are tastes of India, Celtic folk, and eastern European choral music alongside western pop and influences from Wells’ own heritage. Born in South London, she moved to rural Italy when she was three. Later, she found herself in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. Her formal education then took her to Sydney, Australia before a return to the UK. This international upbringing has given Nicki an unusual and unique point of view which she brings to her music.
Nicki’s sound is influenced by a range of musicians, most notably the legend that is Nitin Sawhney who has worked with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd and Sinead O’Connor. Nitin would go on to produce Nicki’s first album Ocean released under the name TURYA.
Nicki’s new album Ellipsis is something of a re-announcement of her music and came about after she had moved from Greenwich in London to her mother’s home in the countryside during the coronavirus pandemic. It opens with Never Will. A delicate piano-led number, it’s a gentle and welcoming introduction to the album’s world. Nicki’s vocals are arrestingly soft. I found myself hanging on every word she sang.
Pavement keeps the piano but ramps up the atmosphere. It’s a dark and moody moment with beautifully descriptive lyrics that will haunt you. Carry On follows in much the same vein but introduces a hopefulness with its lyrical story. The Night brings with it acoustic guitar and ghostly harmonies. She Made You Feel Something is a beautifully textured track with ambient percussion and folksy vocals. The aforementioned Holy Smoke closes the first half of the album with an understated, memorable highlight.
The second half of the album opens with the contemplative Sidelines. Nicki’s vocals are particularly beautiful during its stripped back first verse. I Have Longed To Be Here is a beautifully rich and meditative track where Nicki’s eastern influences are worn proud. Silent One is slow-burning, unfolding over six and a half minutes. The natural romance of its journey makes it another highlight.
You’re Alright Kid is a track that’s touched with the nostalgia of youth mixed with the melancholy of adulthood. Warrior has an understated sense of triumph. It builds to a rousing crescendo which gives us the album’s emotional high point before title track Ellipsis closes the album with a pulsating final chapter that combines electronic and acoustic instrumentals to great effect.
Ellipsis is an ambitious effort from an artist who has been through it all. Nicki proves herself as a fiery and accomplished song writer with this collection. Its emotional story is second to none and she brings such a wonderfully unique tapestry of sounds across its twelve tracks. This is an album to switch off and get lost to You can give it a listen below.