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Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rhythm

Album review

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Wildbirds & Peacedrums are a girl / boy duo from Sweden. They have been making fever-fuelled, primal pop since 2007. However, unlike your standard power duo, their set-up eschews guitars, focusing solely on drums and voice. On earlier efforts, their sound was buoyed by additional instrumentation – steel pans, pump-organs, an Icelandic chamber choir – but here they have pointedly pulled back. Save the odd bass line and a smattering of cowbell, Rhythm is whittled, clipped and cut to reveal the core of Wildbirds & Peacedrums: Mariam Wallentin’s extraordinary voice, alongside Andreas Werliin’s extraordinary ability to hit things.

By setting themselves these limitations, Wellentin and Werliin litter their path with obstructions. Obstacles to slide around, rise above, dig their nails beneath. Accordingly, their choices are frequently unexpected, but oftentimes inspired. On ‘Mind Blues’, for example, Wallentin’s exploratory “ooos” are layered again and again, to create a vocal canopy that could easily hang within Björk’s landscape (with Weliin’s shakes and beats cutting through like light through leaves). Meanwhile, the frantic, urgent, free-jazz drums on ‘Everything All The Time’ are charged by the silence they push against.

On ‘Rhythm’, Wildbirds & Peacedrums go some way to capturing the feverish intensity of their live shows. Here the band are in their element; there is an improvisational quality, with the pair loose-limbed and playful in their sonic acrobatics. Furthermore, the inherent theatricality of live performance is captured in the recording. The R&B soaked ‘Gold Digger’ is particularly seeped in drama. As Werliin repeats “my love you will sink the ship and every other ship in this battalion,” you can feel the spotlight settle, you can smell the greasepaint in the air. Accordingly the duo report the album was mainly made through one take recordings, eyeball to eyeball, alone in the studio.

It is relevant to note that this particular girl / boy duo are husband and wife. Rhythm is underscored by a palpable understanding between the musicians, both in terms of harmonious support, but also in the intermittent discord of intimacy. Each pushes the other that little bit farther, a bow that pulls the other taught: to send this whittled arrow of an album soaring.

Jessica Jordan-Wrench

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