In preparing to write the metaphor comparing Covington, KY's Umin compositions to a hummingbird's flight pattern, I watched video after video of hummingbirds doing hummingbird things. The comparison made sense in my mind. In darting from flower to flower those transitions seem impossibly fast, almost imperceptible to the human eye. But then, it is there, suspended motionless extracting nectar from a flower. It's tiny heart beating 21 times per second.
Listening to Umin's 5th release, this metaphor seems apt, right? Something a clever writer would do. I mean, it is there, right in front of you. Lines splayed out all over baritone ukelele and acoustic guitar, run through a sequencer and composed loop-by-loop as Kevin Poole's fingers run at a hummingbird's pace up and down the fretboard creating impossibly fast arpeggios. Stopping, hovering over a particularly tasty musical morsel, extracting all of the sonority, timbre, blatant genius before transitioning - at lightning speed - on to the next. Poole's heart and phalanges traveling at 21 times the normal human's.
Some lines, often modulated, sometimes stark, take on sonic character far beyond their origin and stop just short of running-out-of-time-on-the-level 8-bit intensity and just approaching the horizon of the brain's ability to process individual notes as perceptible. This can lead to two very different listening approaches. One is of complete surrender. To lay the fine hairs in your ear canal flat and let the swirling notes wash over you in an unregulated sea of data. The firehose of 1's and 0's we used to think the internet was comprised of when we plugged into our most visceral Lawnmower Man 90's virtual reality fantasies. The second, much more rewarding approach, is to put your active listening cap on and compartmentalize and isolate. Squinting your ears to track and capture those beautiful transitions. Moments when stark changes, quadrupling of lines, hyper-complex arpeggios at realtime begin to separate themselves and peer through the shower bead curtain of notes. Tiny hummingbird wings captured and slowed down to a very fast human's walking pace.
But here is where the metaphor breaks down. While nowhere near the aimless and circuitous flight of a fly or wasp, you could easily call a hummingbird a bit spastic. Watching Umin perform these looped passages in realtime, however, one gets the sense that these songs are precise in their planning and execution. When Umin reaches for his baritone ukelele to play several hyperfast lines already an already roiling sea of hyperfast lines, he does so with a methodical, studied patience, rather than the spastic, everythings-going-to-break, edge of control method utilized by some famous loopers. No hummingbird flit. All careful precision.