Review Summary: The Swedish duo fuse infectious art pop with primal minimalism on their thrilling new album.
Swedish husband and wife duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums are aware that sometimes less is more. On their fourth aptly titled full-length Rhythm
they strip back their sound to bare essentials. Only vocals and percussion sparsely augmented with bass lines signal the minimalist approach that captures the intensity of the duo's live shows. In addition, both singer Mariam Wallentin and drummer/percussionist Andreas Werliin show greater artistic maturity that's a direct result of their numerous collaborations with other musicians including the big band luminaries, Fire! Orchestra. In consequence, the album sounds wonderfully expressive, refocusing attention on immediacy that's been absent from the act's previous releases. The songs are not only ingeniously thought out, but also oftentimes supremely accessible mostly on the grounds of infectious vocal hooks.
Wallentin's delivery is in a class by itself as she finds a comfortable middle ground between playful jazz-inspired vocalizations and powerful vocal harmonies deeply ingrained in blues and soul. Take her remarkably assured performance on the album's highlight, 'Keep Some Hope.' The singer's charismatic articulation has become more refined without losing its trademark impetuosity. She's adept at handling complex rhythms on 'Ghosts & Pains,' but also proves incredibly nimble in her phrasing on 'Mind Blues.' Her commendable power and range as a singer especially shine through 'Gold Digger' where she augments the booming chorus with a spectral piece of backing vocals. Clever vocal layering also makes for unexpectedly dark undertones that permeate through the cryptic closer, 'Everything All The Time.'
There's no play with contrast on the album since the massive and omnipresent drums don't allow it. Werliin ups the ante as regards the use of ingenious kit patterns, adding auxiliary percussion parts, frequently without overdubbing. Snare drums and cymbals are the main tools in his musical arsenal that never fails to create resonant, dense textures. Rhythm
is filled to the brim with versatile playing that oscillates between jazz-rock tendencies and exotic flourishes taken straight from the world music. Werliin is particularly resourceful on 'The Offbeat' whose supreme deep groove is embellished with cowbell to scintillating effect. His cooperation with Wallentin remains hugely intuitive and swift on most tracks. The only jarring moment comes with 'Soft Wind, Soft Death' where The Knife-echoing hypnotic beat stands in stark contrast with gospel hues of the vocals.
revolves around atavistic instincts and celebrates rhythm as a form of primal expression. Expanding on the concept of their debut Heartcore
, the new record replaces intimacy with ecstasy and elation. Yet the male/female dynamic still remains. The artwork for the album is as ambiguous as relationships themselves, presenting the couple embracing each other either in a passionate dance or in an act of violence. Similarly Rhythm
can be described by a series of contradictions. It's both primal and audacious, raw and approachable, unnerving and at times comforting. Most of all, though, it tackles the relationship turmoil in a brilliantly inventive and thrilling fashion.