30 January 2011

Hummingbird - our fearful symmetry (2010, Fluid Audio)

Eleven instrumentals, forty-six minutes, from a musician, who apparently released already several records but who decided to stay anonymous for this project, it is a very limited debut release (100 copies) on Fluid Audio. "Our Fearful Symmetry"is a nicely conceived trip through the usual modern ambient genre mixing traditional instruments with effects, digital sound sources and processing, in order to find coherence, authenticity, depth and melancholic seductiveness.

This album could be seen as a metaphor of what this scene tries to achieve recently, as it is, soft and relatively non-revolutionary, yet potentially haunting, truly beautiful, refined and formatted to get approval and adhesion.
You are not in unknown territory but in a friendly, safe one, without too much intensity and with enough variations to keep you awake and alert. There is nothing striking here, just soothing, something intimate but never really overtly personal, it reminds me of the atmosphere of Sunday mornings, in town, with closed shops, half-empty roads and alleys, where people are strolling and roaming with no other main aim than draining away the stress and tension of their previous week.

Piano, keys, strings, minimal percussions, field recordings and bells, reverb and delay, like incense smoke floating in the air,  ambient drone music with neoclassical influences, "Hummingbird" impresses aesthetically by the level of technical mastership and finesse, but never gives lasting emotions and I mostly go through this record somewhat unconcerned, at least during the first part. 

Maybe this feeling is related to the definite human scale at which these tracks are developed, with no hurry and no overwhelming emotions, just a maintained concentration level with often not enough place to drift as a listener, a constant walk, dragging memories but moving forward, under impassive cloudy skies where sunny spells are as unpredictable as sudden showers. 

"Uncertainty in Copenhagen" directly installs the scenario, highly reverberated disillusioned piano notes under melancholic strings, like walking down with some reluctance an empty street set between high houses, one icy late winter morning. Coldness invades us further on "Seeds of Deception", with the feel of being isolated and chilled.

Subtle shift on "The Little Green Box" as a pale hesitant sun starts to shine briefly through the clouds and our mood slowly melts and gets progressively warmer as the cold needles finally recede from our fingers. A solar cello holds the entry of "Sketch of the Mythology" and never stops the embrace, holding crystalline hopeful piano notes and a deliciously appeasing choir wave.

Back to darkness with "Eemina", with barely audible echoes of distant conversations behind your close eyelids, having a nap in a waiting room or in a crowded train, and waking up after it, for a short nostalgic reverie, "Florian".

"Thoughts in the Head" gives you some space to breathe, in a middle of a wide lawn park, with a blank stare in the direction of a distant grove. Before moving the eyes towards the sky, "Starfish Seastar" and walking again, along one of the most splendid and more driving tracks of this album yet still very somnolent.

"Defining Space" adopts the drone ambient structure of slowly evolving textures in the background, with close intimate field recordings of what could be interpreted as steps on a solid ground. "The Making of a Revolution" is much more introspective and comforting instead of being just comfortable, with its pervading sadness. Following this more open path, the last track lets you finally breathe deeply and rest yourself with slowly pulsating waves of sound and their lulling impact.

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