Track Review: himehabu – ‘Orbifolia’

! NEW BAND ALERT ! Readjust your radar people, himehabu are new kids on the proverbial block. Named after a viper species native to the Ryukyu Islands, pronounced ‘him-eh-ha-boo’, this Leeds based 5-piece have all the venom of their slithering counterpart. Having just released their debut single, ‘Orbifolia’, it’s time to whip out that microscope and scrutinise this reptilia.

Formed in 2019, himehabu consists of: Kyle Ellerbeck (vocals and bass), Joe Scott (guitar), Ben Lee (drums), Hamish Irvine (alto saxophone) and Jemima Edwards (keys and synth, as well as the artist behind their stunning artwork). First impressions depict this fascination with experimentation, of newness and the process of blending genres. Specifically, to name a few, there are hints of funk, psychedelia and art rock. Much like a chalk drawing, himehabu smudge colours together to produce a rich, pulsating amalgam. Picture this, Swim Deep meets George Clinton’s vision, meets David Byrne’s curiosity, meets the modernity of Kevin Parker – are there any other MASSIVE names I can drop here?? Himehabu embody the abolishment of strict categorisation, refusing to sit neatly within one (or even two!) genres.

himehabu (left to right): Ben Lee, Jemima Edwards, Joe Scott, Hamish Irvine, and Kyle Ellerbeck. 

‘Orbifolia’, recorded at Leeds College of Music with producer Rufus CB, is their first public release and what a way to do it. It opens enticingly with sun-dried licks, meandering keys and wavering vocals: a lazy hot summers day made audible. Kyle’s vocals reside in an unusual realm between being lulling and unsettling. They are hazily camouflaged within the instrumental only to emerge later at the chorus with longer eerie notes. This dissonance works well with the subject matter, explained by the vocalist: “the lyrics reflect on events and feelings of personal, societal and cultural disillusionment.” The delicious irregularity of the track, moving from the soothing start to the crashing cymbals of the chorus and back again, is like being chucked around in a washing machine – obvs in a good way.

One element of the track that cannot go unmentioned is the percussion. It comes as no surprise that the band are influenced by the supremely talented Yussef Dayes. ‘Orbifolia’ features hypnotic grooves and swirling rhythms, not unlike the London drummer-cum-producer. A standout moment comes in around 2 minutes to the end. Stripped back, with shimmering keys cosying up next to island percussion, it progresses to incorporate more and more momentum. The climax comes with Joe Scott’s mind-bending solo, sliding through space and time – it is completely epic.

To say that himehabu only formed in the autumn of last year, this level of output is phenomenal. They are tight, eager to evolve and exceedingly interesting. Having already played a show at Belgrave, as well as narrowly missing out on another at Brudenell due to Covid-19, they are on track to be a local favourite. Inject this venom into my veins!

The verdict: Sweet and sour. Refusing to sit neatly within a category, this dish epitomises the spirit of himehabu. Being all at once tangy, sugary, spicy and delicious, chow down on that surprising chunk of pineapple and bathe in its unpredictability.  

Listen for yourself:

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