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Wildbirds and Peacedrums: Rivers

Bruce Lindsay By

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Rivers is beautiful; haunting, evocative, dreamlike, sad, confusing, scary and bewildering, it's a truly original work.

Wildbirds and Peacedrums is a Swedish husband and wife team: percussionist Andreas Werliin and singer and composer Mariam Wallentin. Werliin is also the drummer with Dan Berglund's Tonbruket, while Wallentin has been compared to Nina Simone, although on this album she more closely resembles European singers such as Paula Rae Gibson or Propaganda's Claudia Brücken.

Rivers, the band's third album, was recorded over four days in January 2010 in Reykjavik, Iceland. The two CDs were originally released as two separate vinyl EPs—Retina and Iris (Leaf, 2010). Although both were recorded within this short time period, each has its own distinct sound and feel.

The Retina tunes are characterized by the magnificent sound of the Schola Cantorum Reykjavik Chamber Choir, which has an ethereal, other-worldly sound, acting as a perfect complement to Wallentin's vocal. "Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood" exemplifies the sound: Wallentin's voice is pure and intensely emotional, while Werliin's percussion punctuates the tune, giving it a rhythmic centre while ensuring that his playing doesn't detract from the wordless choral vocal that is so crucial to the song's atmosphere.

"Under Land and Over Sea" is another song with a standout vocal performance from Wallentin, underpinned by the Chamber Choir without Werliin's percussion. The emotional intensity of the performance is immediately affecting—each word is sung as if Wallentin's life depended on it. On "Fight For Me," Werliin returns, his percussion to the fore, while both Wallentin and the choir deliver a strangely threatening and disturbing lyric.

On the Iris tracks, the sound is stripped back and percussion—including the rich sound of the steel pan—dominates. Wallentin's voice becomes more soulful and less tormented, while the songs themselves are more straightforward in construction. Less innovative than Retina, Iris is more readily accessible. All five songs have a lightness to their musical structure, while "The Drop" and "The Lake" are both lyrically intriguing.

This is one of the most original, affecting and intense albums to emerge from the contemporary European music scene. At times disquieting and complex, at others sweet and simple, the songs have a timeless quality and, in Wallentin, the band has one of the most distinctive singers around. Rivers is beautiful.

Track Listing: CD1(Retina): Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood; Tiny Holes in this World; Under Land and Over Sea; Fight For Me; Peeling Off the Layers. CD2 (Iris): The Wave; The Drop; The Course; The Lake; The Well.

Personnel: Andreas Werliin: drums, percussion; Mariam Wallentin: vocals, steelpan, organ bass pedal; Schola Cantorum Reykjavik Chamber Choir: vocals (CD1).

Title: Rivers | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: The Leaf Label

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