More music, but nothing to do with Wagner or opera this time.
Returning to the office from a court appearance up in Ventura County, I slipped a CD into the changer and was reminded that I have not yet put in a good word for Hummingbiird. Hummingbiird is the current incarnation of the Chicago-area band formerly known as Pedal Steel Transmission. Following its name change and retooling, the band released a self-titled album this past August, and has made it available in its entirety for absolutely-free-and-legal MP3 downloading at its website, here.
In the band's current version, the song structures seem to have tightened up a bit from the more clangorous and freeformed excursions favored by its predecessor. As the old name suggests, guitars are the order of the day, with stylistic touchstones covering the past 35 years or so. At any given moment, the music may evoke anything from Ennio Morricone to The Cure to the Allmans to the Kinks to what have you. There are plenty of effects -- reverb, delay, etc. -- but little in the way of distortion or feedback: the sounds that emerge happily display their origins in vibrating steel or nylon. Guitars are there to make music, not to serve as trigger devices for some other sort of effect or processing. The song titles tend not to indicate how the song will sound: some of the kinder gentler numbers have comparatively grim titles such as "Nuclear Winter," "Lyme Disease" or "Beat the Zombies." "Speak Softly," on the other hand, doesn't -- and "Lilting" isn't. The collection is old-fashioned in the sense that the album holds up well as an album: worth listening to in order, all the way through. It is a mystery to me why (to judge by Google and Technorati results) Hummingbiird has not received more attention from the MP3/music weblog community since it put this album out last summer. (Did I mention it's downloadable for free!!? Yes, it appears that I did.)
As a sample, here is perhaps my favorite track. "Homesic and Sujnburned" (the only eccentric title spelling in the group) starts out evoking the Beatles' "If I Needed Someone" as it might be played by the Byrds over a lush bed of -- what else? -- pedal steel guitar. It settles into some spacious prairie musing until the 3-minute mark when, instead of ending as it might, the song spends two more minutes stretching itself like a large purring jungle cat before spinning off a final chorus.
- Hummingbiird - Homesic and Sujnburned [MP3 link]
As a bonus, here is the aforementioned tick-borne ailment:
- Hummingbiird - Lyme Disease [MP3 link]
The core of Hummingbiird consists of songwriters Dan Schneider and Gary Pyskacek, who are also, so far as I can determine, the main constituents of The Singleman Affair, under which moniker they pursue their more acoustic-psychedelic-folk inclinations. Clever movie buffs of a certain age may earn valu
ableless Fool points by identifying the reference in that band name. The Singleman Affair has a forthcoming album of its own, samples from which were posted earlier in the week by Craig Bonnell at songs:illinois. Early Simon & Garfunkel appears to be a formative influence here, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Additional links, downloads and information on these and related entities at Cardboard Sangria Records.
It has occurred to me more than once that the double-i's in the last syllable of Hummingbiird might both be voiced, so that the name would be pronounced as "Humming-beard," an example of which was famously illustrated by Edward Lear:
UPDATE [012106 16:49 PST]: Glenn at Coolfer today reports the signing of The Singleman Affair to the Poptones label. At the Poptones site, you can find a streaming Quicktime video for l'affaire Singleman's "Is Madras Morning" -- which draws on the Ravi Shankar-driven stars 'n' sitars side of 60s music -- as well as a link to the band's inevitable MySpace page.
- I will provide an answer to the "what movie does the band name come from" quiz on Monday, if no one else has provided the correct response by then.
- Final Update [012406 1010 PST]: The answer to our film trivia question is in the continuation below:
FILM TRIVIA ANSWER:
The Singleman Affair's band name is taken from The Graduate. Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman), arriving at the hotel for his assignation with Mrs. Robinson, meets the Desk Clerk, played imperturbably by the film's screenwriter, Buck Henry. Hilarity ensues:
ROOM CLERK: Can I help you, sir!
BEN: What? Oh - no - I'm just -
He points vaguely in the direction of the other young people.
ROOM CLERK: Are you here for an affair, sir?
Terror and disbelief start in Ben's eyes. He looks helplessly at the clerk.
ROOM CLERK: The Singleman party, sir?
BEN: Oh - yes. The Singleman party.
ROOM CLERK: It's in the main ballroom.
BEN: Ahh - thank you.
Ben backs off and turns and starts across the lobby. He puts on his jacket as he goes. He gets to the entrance to the main ballroom. He pauses at the door, looks in.
What he sees: People dancing, talking, sitting, etc. He turns back toward the lobby. He stops.
What he sees: The room clerk scross the lobby watching him.
Ben flashes a huge smile and points in toward the ballroom as though to express his joy at finding the Singleman affair inside, then turns back and enters the ballroom.