Six years ago, I reviewed Our Fearful Symmetry, a gorgeous album by a mysterious ambient artist called Hummingbird. I led an exhaustive search to discover who the artist might be, and came so close that I named some of the artist’s friends. I was wrong. Fortunately I now know who he or she is, and can relax. No spoilers here ~ I’m good at keeping confidences!
Now that the artist has finally returned to this nom de plume, Fluid Audio has produced another exquisite package, this one with “René Primevère prints in glassine bags, A5 print (signed by Hummingbird), printed poem, inserts from original antique 1st edition 1833 ’Naturalist’s Library’ books (extremely rare) and pressed/scented lavender flowers.” It’s really hard to compete with this label when it comes to beautiful sights, scents and sounds. The downside, of course, is that these releases sell out so quickly. But here’s a challenge for you DIY people: purchase the digital version and make your own bespoke envelope! Art is not a passive only pursuit.
Hummingbird connects a chain of seemingly disparate artists, from Primevère to Sir William Jardine (author of The Naturalist’s Library) to Neruda, all inspired by the flittering bird with the fast-beating heart. By choosing to pattern this release after its namesake, Fluid Audio provides the album with a solid identity, although the track titles don’t follow suit. Suffice it to say that the album sounds like a slow-awakening spring, and birds in search of pollen, and glistening streams. More impressionistic than overtly song-based, Glade is a collection of textures that mimic newly sprouting buds and leaves. It’s not fast, but it does imitate flight.
Tiny synthesized tones dance among the strings in the opening track, “Himalayah”, an indicator of scale that reflects the size of the species. Time and time again, the artist weaves such little sounds into the mix, where they wait to be discovered like flecks of pyrite. The timbres of chimes and bells are particularly memorable, riding an ambient stream. At 68 minutes, the album is generous; it’s easy to get lost like driftwood. But whenever clear instruments appear – for example, the piano of “Six Points of Tabligh” – the listener’s attention is drawn back to the music’s complex architecture.
The album’s most accessible track appears halfway through, as “Sunrawardiya” contains a hummable melody, backed by feather and scratch. Not that the album is elusive; it’s simply more concerned with hue. For a brief few seconds on “Nuqaba”, clocks tick and metal gates are latched, a connection to the real world beyond the daydream. We know that hummingbirds don’t wear shawls, or point with human arms; but for the length of the album, we can imagine such beings. The title refers to 300 people who walk the earth and are responsible for its enlightenment; perhaps they are able to speak of fanciful things as well.
Glade is different enough from the artist’s “normal” work that the mystery is likely to continue. But there’s no mistaking the quality of this release; this is a glade we’d love to lie in, watching the little hummingbirds race about their morning work while we relax and take it all in. (Richard Allen)