Hvmmingbyrd originally came together in the Kildare town of Maynooth in 2013 when friends Deborah Byrne, Becca Carroll, Dolores Fogarty, Helen Lane and Catriona Michel decided to combine their talents to form a folk ensemble. Playing their first live show that same year on Culture Night at the High Lone Gallery, they would go on to release their self-titled debut album at the end of 2014.
The record proved to be quite a success for the group, hitting number 13 on the iTunes chart, as well as garnering airplay on a wide range of national radio stations. Given its extremely accomplished arrangement, it’s easy to understand why it’s been turning so many heads.
Starting off with “Coffee and Clementines”, the compilation introduces itself via a soft and warm harmony that reverberates across the air, reciting some cheerfully earnest lyrics. This sweet and gentle love song tells a touching tale of romance and courtship, serving as an uplifting and optimistic opening number.
The instrumentation of “Etre Moi” adopts an appropriately ethnic sound next as it proceeds placidly alongside a merry melody narrated entirely in French. It’s followed by the bracing beat that gets “The Sad” going and prefaces an ardent aria. Things progress purposefully from here through subtle but stirring musical motifs, making this a very resolute and determined offering.
Ethereal hums begin “Honeymoon” afterwards ahead of amazingly vivid vocals. The instrumental work remains initially restrained, but grows gradually behind the haunting harmony. It’s an incredibly eloquent and affecting undertaking. “Shake the Crown” takes over with playful instrumentation, out of which a characterful flute emerges to guide the proceedings towards a quirky melody. It all results in a relaxed and colourful composition whose eccentric execution is a lot of fun.
“Bluebird” makes its presence felt by way of light and airy vocals that hit a plethora of stunningly high notes as a riveting acoustic riff chimes in. A fast pace and exhilarating rhythm keep things irresistibly enthralling as it marches fervently forward. The hushed guitar work of “Sorry” succeeds it, going on to team up with some reflective and lamenting vocals. It carries an underlying sombre tone that’s emphasized by its solemn strings.
“Nineteen” opts for a more positive attitude in its wake, blasting off with an upbeat riff which is complemented by rousing flute work as an energetic melody sets in. Although it soon develops a somewhat ambiguous ambience, as the merry mood of the percussion is offset by the pensive string and woodwind work. “The One I Love”, on the other hand, is a heartwarming and festive entry, featuring a nice back and forth routine between female and male vocals before “So Well” takes over as a peaceful ballad. Soothing as it builds slowly through pleasant melodies and enthusiastic instrumentation, it serves as a suitably introspective ending.
Hvmmingbyrd have constructed an easygoing and restful record that makes fantastic use of its stripped down instrumental style and spectacular vocals. This is an altogether contemplative piece of work, the execution of which is extremely articulate. Anyone who appreciates truly adept and meaningful music will surely appreciate this. You can experience the self-titled album for yourself on Bandcamp now.