Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Rivers
Commercial success may elude them, but there's a rare, fierce beauty here
The Swedish husband-and-wife team of Andreas Werliin and Mariam Wallentin have long crafted a precious, precocious music that hovers on the verge of silence, but on their third album, they up the ante considerably. Originally released earlier this year as two limited-edition vinyl EPs, Retina and Iris, Rivers is a water-themed concept album, of sorts, with the baroque melodrama of the five Retina tracks contrasting starkly with the hushed introspection of their Iris counterparts.
The married duo have always cleaved closely to the minimal-is-maximal school of songcraft, weaving textured tapestries from little more than Werliin's quasi-militaristic drumming and Wallentin's spectral larynx, but this time around they decamped to Iceland to recruit the services of Björk collaborators Valgeir Sigurdsson and Hildur Gudnadóttir and the 12-piece Schola Cantorum Reykjavik Chamber Choir. The results are often reminiscent of Björk's vocally fiery, paganistic 2004 album Medúlla, with Wallentin's yearning tones sounding simultaneously vivacious and vulnerable against the glacial drifts of tracks such as "Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood" and "Tiny Holes In This World," while "The Wave" is a glorious wash of steel drums and timpani.
Wildbirds & Peacedrums operate at a wilfully rarefied musical altitude and commercial success may once again elude them, but there is a rare, fierce beauty here.