Wildbirds & Peacedrums: Rivers

Wildbirds & Peacedrums
(The Control Group)

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Rivers, the new album from Swedish duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums compiles two distinctly different five-song EPs; both of which use aquatic themes, both of which were recorded in Iceland.

The arresting first half (originally the Retina EP) is a primal set of songs whose minimal instrumentation is limited to slightly processed martial drum figures and vocals from lead singer Mariam Wallentin, with lush accompaniment from an Icelandic chamber choir (the same choir featured on Björk’s vocal-centric album Medulla).

Recorded in a Reykjavik church, the sound is gothic and cavernous, and while raw, it isn’t harsh—the dramatic choral arrangements add a haunting, classical restraint and Wallentin’s voice is powerful, but controlled. Songs like “Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood” and “Peeling Off the Layers” are the most chilling entries; the latter’s bleak climactic refrains are shiver-inducing.

The second half of the album (originally the Iris EP) is similar to the first half in its minimalist instrumentation—while there is no choir, a steel drum is used as the central instrument, and the occasional synth flourishes appear. It could be that we typically associate steel drums with tropical environs, but this half appears more upbeat (or maybe just “less dark”) though no less raw in emotion. The song titles alone (“The Wave,” “The Lake,” etc.) more overtly display the water theme.

The second is the lesser of the album’s two halves, but “The Well” closes things nicely with its clipped, crashing drums and oscillating steel pan patterns. Simply put, Rivers is a theatrical and gripping record from an engaging band, perfect for the impending darkness of autumn and winter.

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About John Mordecai

John Mordecai is a musician and writer from New Haven, Conn. He was the bassist for Brooklyn-based ERAAS (formerly APSE), and also plays (sometimes) in New England-based Shark and Brooklyn's The Tyler Trudeau Attempt. He also maintains a blog (sometimes) at http://selfsensored.wordpress.com/
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