Hummingbird: Our Fearful Symmetry
Fluid Audio

I'll confess my curiosity is piqued when a release appears that's credited to a “well-known composer who wishes to remain anonymous,” as the press info accompanying Hummingbird's Our Fearful Symmetry declares. In a haunting collection predicated upon side-stepping the cult of personality, this latest release from the Fluid Audio imprint presents eleven meditative, absorbing set-pieces in the electronic-classical genre that paint their evocative pictures with concision. The material is by turns portentous, brooding, pensive, soothing, turbulent, and unsettling, not to mention atmospheric in the extreme, with all sounds, whether they're piano, electronics, speaking voices, static, white noise, nature-based field recordings, or strings, steeped in reverb and rendered faded by the imagined passage of time.

The album begins on a deeply plaintive note with “Uncertainty in Copenhagen” wherein somber piano melodies appear amidst cellos and faint electronic flickering. “The Little Green Box” cultivates a mood of child-like reverie in its splashes of string plucks and music box-like sparkle; while the piece initially appears to meander, a general shape gradually begins to come into focus as its multiple elements cohere. In “Sketch of the Mythology,” droplets of piano appear alongside the vibrato of electronic cellos and silken exhalations of a choir, while the peaceful “Defining Space” opts for softly whistling ambient ripples of processed materials. Yes, it's an album that seamlessly slots itself into the ambient soundscaping genre, and the material does suggest kinship with the works of Max Richter, Library Tapes, and Peter Broderick, but it's no less engaging for doing so. Our Fearful Symmetry is available in a limited edition of 100 letter-pressed copies with each accompanied by a 1940s Polaroid slide.

July 2010