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Wildbirds & Peacedrums
Rivers Meryl Trussler , August 18th, 2010 14:02

The two halves of this album are the EPs Retina and Iris, and peachily enough the former is the bubble of gloom, the latter the burst of colour. On Retina, Mariam Wallentin sings out as though for rescue over the amphibian murk of the Schola Cantorum Rejkjavik Chamber Choir. (You will remember them, distinctively, from Björk's album Medúlla.) It's unsettling to hear her, Miss Jazzy-ass Squall of Gothenburg, hollering over all those others for the first time – since Wildbirds are so characteristically spare, dropping drum and autoharp and other stringèd things sharp like tacks onto a white A4 of silence. This Wallentin & co. therefore feels almost like a power surplus, like a threat to the equilibrium, or any other fancy way of saying that somehow it makes me nervous. Good nervous. Nervous so that Andreas Werliin's delicious thok-tak of percussion on 'Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood' and 'Fight for Me' creates goosebumps.

But for all this deep black coolness it is Iris that comes off as the victor in this intra-album struggle. It's not a huge departure from previous work The Snake, so maybe it's just because it's summer, and its melodic steel drums feel so much righter. Echoes of The Knife are louder than ever, for that band's current penchant for operatics, but Wildbirds are somehow more... excruciating. You can hear the reed of Wallentin's throat. And could it be, on 'The Course', that Werliin makes a beautiful chord progression from... tuned woodblocks? Agogos? Something quintessentially wood. No wonder so many call Wildbirds & Peacedrums an experimental band – I don't know that I've ever heard wood sing like a voice, and a voice sing like wood. "Board him / fall into him before the lightning strikes him," she sings on 'The Well', half-broken, all these songs sounding like crazed incantations on a desert island, with Werliin's cymbals making the storm.

Hey, how do you like etymology? Did you know that "wood" used to mean insane? Or that the old English "woþ" meant song, or that the related Old Norse "oðr" could mean feeling, or anger, or Odin? So if I say this album feels like wood, like all these things, is this enough? Or does that sound like I mean it feels like an erection?Well, who cares. Maybe it does. Who knows how you people react to good records.