I never thought I would hear myself saying this, but there is something Lady Gaga about Wildbirds & Peacedrums third album Rivers. Worry not fans of the Swedish art-folksters — the duo have not gone all over-produced Madonna inspired pop on us, but vocally Mariam Wallentin shows echoes of the Gaga. This is not necessarily a bad thing, with Rivers demonstrating a more mainstream approach, comparisons to the current phenomenon will not go amiss. That said, a far more appropriate and striking comparison needs to be made first. Even in recent press photos, Mariam Wallentin is merging with the well respected Regina Spektor. There stripped back warblings are equally moving and inspiring. And I won’t even start on Tori Amos.
Yet part of me wonders if Wildbirds & Peacedrums even warrant allegory as they reach album number 3? The pairing (the aforementioned Wallentin and her husband Andreas Werliin) have outgrown their early Bjork resemblances and blossomed into a genre-defining act. Their stripped back experimentation and subtle nuance have set them in a league of their own and won over a legion of fans. Surely with Rivers the inevitable similarities can be laid to one side?
By allowing their creativity to simply flow, the dynamic duo prove themselves a force to be reckoned with.
In many respects Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Rivers could prove a career defining moment for the pairing. Without having lost any of their artistic integrity or defining characteristics, the duo have moved subtly into the mainstream domain, with the haunting Soap&Skin-esque “Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood” screaming out for a gothic video makeover. While the determined “Fight For Me” and the lush “The Drop” are so radio friendly than you could be forgiven for believing it had been lifted from a different album.
While Werliin’s epic constructions are the perfect compliment to his wife’s sometimes chilling vocal, Wallentin is the real draw. Her dexterous vocal is flawlessly diverse, oozing a pure richness. There are very few vocals that can paint a picture with each changing note, yet Wallentin brings every moment into vibrant motion.
“Rivers” is not without its flaws (notably the stilted “The Course”), yet as a collection it is superfluous to many of the releases 2010 has seen. Wildbirds & Peacedrums have in many respects picked up where “The Snake” left off, yet at the same time they have blossomed. By allowing their creativity to simply flow, the dynamic duo prove themselves a force to be reckoned with.