With only the knowledge that Wildbirds & Peacedrums is a Swedish husband and wife duo, thoughts of a death metal White Stripes popped in my mind. Then learning that “Rivers” was originally two vinyl EP releases, now combined to one album, I became skeptical that this could be any good. Hodgepodge death metal duo might be a draw for some, but wasn’t exactly the calm side dish I’m seeking to go with my morning coffee. Yet, to my ears immense pleasure, all preconceived notions about the duo were wiped clean after one spin of the disc.
The album is a mix of mysterious and dark, simple yet beautifully executed tunes that dance around themes of water and light that evoke a feeling of purity. The first half of the album is titled, “Retina,” while the second is “Iris.” Retina enlists the vocal power of the Schola Cantorum Reykjavik Chamber Choir, and was largely recorded in an Icelandic church, giving the songs an ethereal reverb. Mariam Wallentin’s vocals weave hauntingly among the choir’s delicate background sound. This certainly isn’t the kids from “Glee.” Andreas Werliin uses percussion minimally, but skillfully to fill out these tunes, while not to distract from the thick atmosphere of the vocals. His percussion smartly drives the songs forward, and the vocals echo and dance. On this half of the album, “Fight for Me,” is intense and interesting as the tone becomes less smoky and more dynamic.
“Iris” shifts to slightly lighter, less dramatic songs with the choir replaced by the steel pan. Wallentin’s moving voice still at the forefront, but with her multitasking instrumentation while Werliin’s drum remains the steady accompaniment. This half is less cerebral and more accessible. On this half, “The Well,” stands out as it swells and buzzes with energy produced mainly by the quick tinkering of the steel drums.
While there is definitely a shift in style, both EP’s manage to compliment each other based innovation and simplicity. Smartly packaged together, “Rivers” gives diversity without trying too hard. The first half isn’t probably the music you’d jam to all the time, but there is something magical about it, and together, the sum is greater than its parts.
Words: Lori Bartlett
Wildbirds & Peacedrums “Rivers” Track List
1. Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood
2. Tiny Holes In This World
3. Under Land And Over Sea
4. Fight For Me
5. Peeling Off The Layers
6. The Wave
7. The Drop
8. The Course
9. The Lake
10. The Well