Thursday, February 20, 2014

Record review: The Humminbird - 'Beyond the Orchard'

By Gene Wagendorf III 

A warmly unfolding autoharp breaks the silence, a kind of sacred sound usually reserved for moments of intense sorrow or intense worship, and it ripples and echoes with the slow strength of shifting earth. The chords swirl and fade angelically until their spell is split by the call of a wailing apparition. It's an almost romantic beckon, just slightly out of reach behind the repetition of the harp. Then it's gone, and the harp rings steadily and the atmosphere builds crystalline before thunder- a throng of fuzz and booming percussion blasts the ceremony. It's the joyously terrifying kind of hypnosis that allows you to be completely jarred without falling out of the daze. It's "White Porcelain," the opening song on Beyond the Orchard, the latest record from local psychedelic poet Muyassar Kurdi.

Kurdi is the force behind The Humminbird, a freak-folk project made up of at least Kurdi and often times a rotating cast of local psych and folk heavyhitters. This latest release finds the singer alone with her autoharp, conjuring up dreamy meditations drenched in mystery and sensuality. "Fill Me Up" opens with yet another almost holy riff, but sharper this time, and Kurdi's vocals are more familiar and clear. The juxtaposition of her seductive croon and the pseudo-religious vibe of her harp is a mesmerizing one, lending the song a kinky edge. That number's fade to silence gives way to the opening hum of "Drone," an appropriately-titled jam that soaks the listener in waves of thick, vibrating feedback. It's a patient, luring hum that feels both slightly sinister and yet a bit too comfortable. That ability to be both oppressive and tantalizing in their noise explorations helps set The Humminbird apart from many of their peers. Kurdi will take you to strange, uncomfortable places, but it's rarely a test of endurance and more often an entrancing voyage.

Things get stormy- in a good way- on "Dear Momma," a song that combines the enveloping sonics of "Drone" with the siren's desperation of "Porcelain." It builds from dreamy graveyard riffs to snarling whips of feedback with magnetic determination, the end result being both alarmingly turbulent and vibrantly affirming. "Don't Want Your Love" follows, and offers arguably the most beautiful and sincere piece of Beyond the Orchard. The song is a nice synthesis of some of Kurdi's likely influences, shoegazers Mazzy Star and the legendary Velvet Underground. Like Hope Sandoval's, Kurdi's voice rises and falls with graceful urgency, fluttering over ethereal harps and echoes. The instrumentation flexes and sighs perfectly, creating a dynamic, whimsical tension ala Nico-era VU.

Closing out the record is its title-track, "Beyond the Orchard." The song has a brooding, Nick Cave-ish swagger to it, thanks in no small part to a threatening beat laid down by drummer Jonathan Alvin. Kurdi pushes her vocals into slightly more traditional spaces, matching the drum's pace with her lyrics while still whipping up bursts of noise with her harp. The singer's mantra, let a flower grow, climaxes in a psych jam that showcases how brilliant a conductor of electricity Kurdi is.  It's the most captivating moment on Beyond the Orchard, and it does a fine job of leaving the listener dazed and wanting more.

'Beyond the Orchard' is available for purchase here. The Humminbird kicks off a spring tour with a Chicago show May 1st at Mortville. Listen to "Don't Want Your Love" and then check out the full tour details below. 

Humminbird Southeast Tour 2014

May 1- Chicago @ Mortville
May 2- Cincinnati @ The Comet 
May 3- Asheville @ MOUNTAIN PARTY 
May 4- Charlotte @ Milestone 
May 5- Greensboro @ TYP Haus
May 6- Athens @ Go Bar 
May 7- Macon @ Fresh Produce Records 
May 8- New Orleans @TBA
May 9- Memphis @ Lamplighter Lounge
May 10- Nashville @ Betty's 
May 11- St. Louis @ Revisionist Inn

1 comment:

  1. gene man, you must be on drugs or plain nuts.