Wildbirds & Peacedrums

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Heartcore (2007) , 7/10
The Snake (2008) , 6/10
Rivers (2010), 6/10

Wildbirds & Peacedrums, i.e. the Swedish duo of vocalist Mariam Wallentin and percussionist Andreas Wallentin, crafted folk-jazz lieder that were mostly a-cappella with percussion on Heartcore (The Leaf, 2007). A Story From A Chair is emblematic of their cryptic soundscapes: the half asleep voice whispers a hymn with virtually no help from the percussion until the hymn blooms into a vibrant chant and then the xylophone starts hammering wildly. Lost Love is a quiet folkish lullaby that uses just random wooden sticks. These "instruments" don't even provide a real rhythm: they just provide background noise to the vocals. The percussion sounds amateurish by comparison with the sophisticated melisma of the singer, especially in the visceral plantation blues numbers Bird and The Window Her powerful vibrato a` la Sinead O'Connor in Pony does not need anything more than the sparse tones of a guitar. The organ does the trick in We Hold Each Other Song, perhaps the most "lonely" of her cries.
There are exceptions to this ascetic style. A real rhythm propels the desolate howled chant of Nakina. I Can't Tell In His Eyes is a regular song with more or less professional backing, and it boasts melodramatic overtones halfway between Grace Slick and Sinead O'Connor. By the standards of the album, Doubt/Hope is hard-rock, thanks to real drumming, clapping and gritty shouting a` la Janis Joplin. The best idea is to be found in the (finally) sprightly The Ones That Should Save Me Get Me Down that complements her drunk blues diva phrasing with typewriter-like noise and jazzy cymbals. The atmospheric The Battle In Water even employs male backing vocals.

The Snake (Caprice, 2008) demonstrated the power of Mariam Wallentin both in the austere a-cappella invocation/meditation Island and in the pounding jumping blues There Is No Light. The passion has remained the same, but the vehicle has changed into much more regular songs with regular drumming, such as Places. The percussion and the instruments, in fact, become as important as the vocals in the savage Liar Lion, possibly the standout. The seven-minute My Heart sounds like a longer version of the march-tempo ditties of the 1960s, and represents one of their simpler melodies yet. She also ventures into more complex dramatic architectures, such as the six-minute So Soft So Pink and Great Lines, but with mixed results.

Rivers (2010) collects the EPs Retina and Iris, the former recorded with cellist Hildur Gudnadottir and a full-scale chamber choir.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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