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H Bird - Operation: Fascination

  by John Clarkson

published: 23 / 4 / 2011

H Bird - Operation: Fascination
Label: H Bird
Format: CD


Colourful combination of fantasy and realism on debut album from now disbanded electronic London trio, H Bird

For a brief time in the summer of 2006, H Bird was a regular fixture on the London indie pop live scene. The synth pop trio performed at How Does It Feel and Fierce Panda club night events, and played gigs at both The Betsey Trotwood and The Good Ship. Then shortly, after they released their debut and only single, ‘Pink Lights and Champagne’, on Dogbox Records, they stopped performing live when keyboardist and backing vocalist Kasia Middleton moved to Los Angeles to write film scores. Guitarist, keyboardist and main songwriter Aug Stone has spent the four years since then working and building on initial H Bird recordings with producer Ian Catt, who has previously worked with both the Field Mice and Saint Etienne. The front cover of the at-last completed ‘Operation: Fascination’ shows a cartoon drawing of a pink-haired girl, standing in front of several rows of brightly coloured bottles, which could be either perfumes or medicines. As that drawing implies, H Bird have with ‘Operation: Fascination’ created their own Technicolor world that balances a gap between reality and fantasy. Both the album title and ‘Danger Makers’, one of its songs, take their name from episodes in Stone’s favourite programme, the far-fetched yet inventive 60’s series, ‘The Avengers’. ‘Sour Martinis’ and ‘Pink Lights and Champagne’, two other songs, are also the titles of chapters in the James Bond novels, ‘Thunderball’ and ‘Casino Royale’. Lead singer and keyboardist Kate Dornan’s vocals are at one level larger-than-life, yet at the same time achingly realistic. The eleven songs on ‘Operation: Fascination’ have been sequenced as such that they very loosely flow together as a concept album and tell of the life and death of a romance. These take us from its giddy, wishful beginnings on the chiming opening tracks, ‘Violet’ (“I just want to make believe in a world that never sleeps”) and the flirtatious ‘Fancies and Goodnights’(“I spy with my little eye/Something that begins with you”), to its passionate peak on the up-tempo middle songs, ‘First Kiss Lips’ (“Ooh, it’s like a dream/Let’s make the dream last all night”) and ‘Pink Lights and Champagne’(“Stay a while/The glasses are filled with pink lights and champagne by my side/Now you’re mine/All mine”). Then on the last third of the album we have break-up on the ethereal ‘Lumieres des Belgigues’ (“Last love lingers on lips/Cold from a goodbye kiss that never came”), and finally bittersweet aftermath on the last two tracks, the acoustic ‘Dear Dead Days’ (“Rain falls/The sound of love/I make my way back home/Street lamps cast their long shadows down streets we used to go”) and the shimmering ‘Allodynia’(“These empty glasses sing of naïve toasts of yesteryear/And all they failed to bring”). Dornan, who was previously in Fosca and Scarlet’s Wells, is especially strong in the exuberant mid-sequence set of songs when by their nature her voice is allowed to soar. She conveys well, however, blustery optimism in the early tracks, and creates a real sense of genuine pathos and wise-after-the-event poignancy at the album’s end. In all of this, she is matched by Stone and Middleton’s effective, but always subtle backing. Dornan and Stone as well as Middleton have now moved on. Dornan has been playing with various London bands including the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra and 18 Carat Love Affair, while Stone has been working with Luxembourg’s and the Melting Ice Caps’ David Shah in a new group entitled the Soft Close-Ups. It seems that with the release of ‘Operation: Fascination’ H Bird has drawn to a natural conclusion. ‘Operation: Fascination’ is a wonderful epitaph to a short-lived band that sparkled briefly, yet brightly.

Track Listing:-
1 Violet
2 Fancies & Goodnights
3 1000 Lights
4 Sour Martinis
5 Danger Makers
6 First Kiss Lips
7 Pink Lights & Champagne
8 Die Büchlein
9 Lumières Des Belgiques
10 Dear Dead Days
11 Allodynia

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Interview (2011)
H Bird - Interview
John Clarkson speaks to Aug Stone and Kate Dornan from London-based synth pop trio H Bird, who have just released their debut album, 'Operation: Fascination', four years after playing their last gig

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