Record review: Wildbirds & Peacedrums, ‘The Snake’

This review by Robert Loerzel originally appeared in Signal to Noise magazine’s fall 2009 issue.

wildbirds-coverWildbirds & Peacedrums
The Snake

Vocals and percussion are the two sounds at the core of this duo from Gothenburg, Sweden. Wildbirds & Peacedrums’ songs often consist of nothing more than Mariam Wallentin singing while her husband, Andreas Werliin, pounds away or ticks off a beat on his drum kit. On The Snake, their second album, the duo occasionally uses other instruments, including steel drum, piano, xylophone, marimba and Rhodes, but those instruments feel secondary to the dynamic combination of drums and human voice. Wallentin calls out her words in a forceful, brassy tone like a blues diva, but she sometimes displays a more delicate side. On “So Soft So Pink,” she softly sings in a chanteuse style not too distant from the work of Feist, although she allows her voice to sink into stranger, throatier depths at the end as she declares, “There is nothing to say about history.” The only clunker here is “Chain of Steel,” with its inane chorus: “She’s got a hold on me/not in a tasty way/she’s got a hold on me/in a nasty way.” Otherwise, The Snake is a solid collection of catchy, rhythmic tunes that stand a chance of breaking through to the mainstream. Some of these songs, such as “My Heart,” would sound great on a movie or TV soundtrack. And yet, there’s also a peculiar streak running through the whole record. Songs that might have been standard pop ballads in the hands of another band break out into clattering drum solos and vocal outbursts that are almost alarming in their intensity.