Wildbirds & Peacedrums Wildbirds & PeacedrumsRivers
We could almost say that the new work by Wildbirds & Peacedrums, “Rivers”, is unpublished. Almost. But it isn’t, because before this, 1,600 lucky people (not counting hackers and people-with-plenty-of-money-but-who-download-music-illegally-anway) were able to hear the two halves when they were released by The Control Group in May and June. But maybe it isn’t fair to speak of two halves. The two EPs complemented each other (especially thematically) and they also looked like the real thing individually. So the joining of “Retina” and “Iris” is a necessary fact more than a formality or a whim, which needed to be said.
The Swedish couple Mariam Wallentin (voice) and her husband Andreas Werliin (drums and percussion) met in some musical improvisation classes at the University of Gothenburg (this says a lot about them and how they develop their compositions more from an idea, at times as generic, and for many, as insubstantial as “water” than from a specific music or chord); they are known for having reinvented gospel, blues and pop arrangements, earning comparisons with the methods of experimentation of a phenomenon like Björk. Recently, they have been touring the United States with St. Vincent. For those who couldn’t be there, there is “Rivers” to be able to hear their work and the Reykjavík choir that they have hired, with a little luck, to feel them ( “Retina,” for example, was recorded in Iceland, live in the interior of a modern church that we should suppose is Hallgrímskirkja). Hildur Guðnadóttir (the cellist of the Touch label) helped them with the choruses. Let’s look at the results.
Right off the bat, we see that the church atmosphere is lost in the nooks and crannies of ambiguity, and it twists itself into a gospel of “Resident Evil”, in the line of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds but dipped in formaldehyde, in the lead song “Bleed like there was no Other Flood”. Have no fear. The macabre side doesn’t last long. The rest of the songs flirt with ethereal gospel and buck-naked dream pop. “Under Land and Over Sea” is almost an a cappella exercise, a siren song in a trembling night sea, after the storm. The tribal and organic love each other in “Fight for Me”, with some variations in classical choruses (shall we say, in the baroque cantatas). If Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) didn’t have such a wavering voice and were (even) more of a woman, and he had been stripped of all movie melodrama, he would not hesitate to put out “Peeling off the Layers”. And the hollowed-out sound of “Tiny Holes in this World” appears to be a twisted song on the day of your first communion. All of this is “Retina”, a first part that, they tell us, speaks of water as a reflection of emotions. Except for the previously-mentioned “Fight for Me” and its “wet” percussion, it’s possible that we could associate its atmospheric fluidity and Mariam’s sinuous voice with the stream of a medicinal mineral-water spring. But we have to recognise that it will be complicated. Wildbirds & Peacedrums isn’t the search for a sound or sound creation alone (something that many other competent artists already do, especially everybody in the world of pure electronic music), but rather the interpretation of a basic group of percussion and voice, of feelings, which should flow clearly and directly like our reflection in the mirror (or, now that we mention it, on the surface of a pond or lake).
“Iris” participates more in the idea of conception without intermediaries. The sound of the steel pan (there is a lot of it in “The Lake”), an instrument that Mariam adores, will be the only texture that reminds us of water in this second part of “Rivers”. But the intimate isn’t lost. It’s even reinforced, and at times in an almost catpower fashion (on “The Drop”). Timid electronics are manifested in the bucolic and Beach House-style “The Course”, and “The Lake” flirts with silky dream pop with electrical inclinations, like we see with Klima or Courtney Tidwell, but without clothes or bags being involved. If they were folkies, they would be similar to Seabear, but the strange tics and Björk-type experiments, as well as a couple of gloomy winks in “Bleed like there Was no Other Flood” and in the slightly atonal close of “The Well”, catapult them into that no man’s land where everything consists of either believing what a stranger tells you or totally blowing him off.