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
By the standards of the album, Doubt/Hope is hard-rock, thanks to
real drumming, clapping and gritty shouting a` la
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
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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