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Wildbirds and Peacedrums: The Snake

Wildbirds and Peacedrums: The Snake

Label:The Control Group
Release Date:2009

By Michael Byrne | Posted 9/9/2009

There's certainly a school of thought out there, however incorrect, that music like this--stripped bare of electronics, manipulation, or even most non-percussive instruments--is reaching at something more pure than what most pop music has become. And the music of Wildbirds and Peacedrums is archly minimal, based around the strong, husky throat of Swede Mariam Wallentin--see also: Natasha Khan, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey--backed by the stripped-to-the-bone jazzy drumming of her husband Andreas Werliin, with downplayed appearances by steel drum, piano, marimba, and xylophone. It's so satisfyingly visceral, it's tempting to admit that the primitivists are onto something.

But that wouldn't mean much without excellent songwriting, and you get the feeling that Wildbirds and Peacedrums don't feel especially hampered by the limited palette. They've added quite a bit of instrumentation since 2007's Heartcore (a smash in Swedish jazz circles, a ripple elsewhere), but rather than take weight off Wallentin's voice, they're added as flourishes, like double-tracking a vocal or adding an echo effect. The result, while still essentially being a voice-and-drums combo, sounds downright expansive, made all the better by a bogglingly unrestrained toolkit of styles. "There Is No Light," with clattering Afro-beat drumming and vocal exhortations that feel like a cross between scat and spiritual outburst, is on another planet; opener "Island" is a solemn, monastic vocal-only chant-song that digs the furthest into minimalism; "Liar Lion" is just a gorgeous pop song. You'd do well to have this in your life.

E-mail Michael Byrne

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