Wildbirds and Peacedrums is a Swedish duo that combines Mariam Wallentin's voice and Andreas Werlin's drums into a fresh, heady brew that is part pop, part improvisstion, part tribalism. Although sparingly augmented by other instruments on Heartcore
, the combination of voice and drums never feels too sparse; the twosome has perfectly tailored their material to their means.
At the heart of what they do are some great songs that soon lodge themselves in the brain and burrow their way further into it, but with enough variety to stop them becoming irritating. So, songs such as "The Way Things Go," "I Can't Tell In His Eyes," "Doubt/Hope," "The Window" all have a charming poppiness and great hooks. But in performance they also have an eccentric edge that adds great energy and excitement; at any moment it feels as if the pair could shoot off on some unforeseen tangent.
"The Way Things Go" sounds like some mutant descendant of a Sixties girl group crossed with the rhythm section of The Glitter Band. But there is also great subtlety to be found here; on "The Window" Wallentin's voice soars and swoops, giving tantalizing hints of how amazing she would sound if allowed real freedom to wander where she wished. Even when not performing such vocal gymnastics, her voice conveys great emotion and invests the lyrics with meaning far beyond the literal; on "Nakina" she duets with herself to great effect. However, it is another duet that steals the show; on the dark ballad "The Battle In Water," the duo sing call-and-response, creating an intimate but disquieting atmosphere.
It is just too easy to label new Scandinavian vocalists as Björk-like, but here it does help convey the sense of otherness that pervades this music. Wildbirds and Peacedrums are unique and, with this as evidence, destined for great things.
Personnel: Mariam Wallentin: voice, diverse instruments; Andreas Werliin: drums, diverse instruments.