With three critically acclaimed albums under their belts, Sweden's Wildbirds & Peacedrums return with their first full length in four years. The fierce, unflinching creation from husband and wife duo Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin,Rhythm is due out on 3 November via The Leaf Label.
'The Offbeat' (released today), is the perfect track to introduce you to Rhythm's manifest immediacy. There is power and confidence in its minimal execution; a simple statement of intent. The provocative video, edited by Jacek Zmarz, fuses the primal elements of rhythm and desire inherent in the song.
Wildbirds & Peacedrums will be heading out on a European tour later this year stopping off in London for a show at Village Underground on 14 November
"We wanted a Wildbirds album that was 100% us. The two of us. The sound that feels like you're in front of us, like you're inside." Wildbirds & Peacedrums 2014
Wildbirds & Peacedrums return with their first record in four years; lean, hungry, and defiant. Staying true to its namesake, Rhythm is the sound of husband and wife duo Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin stripping back the layers to reveal the taut muscular structures that have always been at the core of everything.
Having established themselves as a powerful, single-minded proposition over the course of three critically acclaimed albums - Heartcore (2008), The Snake (2009) and Rivers (2010) - and countless tour dates, Wildbirds & Peacedrums needed a break "to create new music, to explore new ways of expressing ourselves with sound," explains Mariam. "After years of touring it all got overheated. We couldn't separate anything. Who were we without the band?" Luckily, according to Andreas, they found that both of them are "maniacs when it comes to music."
So the intervening four years have been spent working on a range of projects and collaborations; the pair having been involved in at least 20/30 albums both as band members, mixing engineers, co-producers, and session musicians. Mariam wonBest Artist at the Swedish Jazz Awards for her solo project Mariam The Believer and starred in Ben Frost's celebrated Wasp Factory Opera while Andreas has been working as a producer, performing with Fire! Orchestra (who won Best Band at the Swedish Jazz Awards), and with the three time Swedish Grammy-winning Tonbruket as well as acting in Ingmar Bergman's home theatre Dramaten in Stockholm. It is this relentless creativity that drives Wildbirds & Peacedrums, the desire to push themselves is evident in everything they do.
Rhythm's gestation was longer than previous' albums but following a move to Stockholm Mariam and Andreas spent time building up their own recording studio, so that they would work in their own space, in their own time. No other ears. No other fingerprints. Written, recorded and produced exclusively by the two of them; there is an unshakeable confidence in Rhythm's execution that could only have been achieved by working in this way. "It was very important to us to be able to create the sound of a Wildbirds album that was 100% us. The two of us. The sound that feels like you're in front of us, like you're inside" says Mariam."We wanted it to feel like a live experience - rich, intense and powerful," adds Andreas. "Almost every song is one take. We recorded standing in the same room, no screens or isolation, looking each other in the eyes."
With no outside influences there is a certain element of cabin fever evident in the songwriting. Never one to censor herself, Mariam's lack of inhibition is magnified in this context. Wordless invocations and desperate mantras hint at the frustrations inherent in such an intense creative relationship. There is a constant internal dialogue, the lyrics and delivery veering from a lucid menacing swagger to self-doubt and introversion. "This is an album that explores desperation, despair, fighting back," Mariam expands. "When you don't know what is real or just happening inside of your head; when you're breaking the boundaries between day-to-day life and the imagination. There's also an elemental theme about change, changing and changes in the world. The need for movement."
Good then that the intuitive and primal interplay between voice and drums not only has the power to leave you breathless, but the power to make you move - especially when combined with cues taken from tropicalia, punk and contemporary R&B. This is particularly evident in the economical drive of opening one-two 'Ghosts & Pains', the understated cacophony of lead track 'The Offbeat', and the neo-gospel of 'Soft Wind, Soft Death'. The latter marks Rhythm's centrepiece, the moment the tension releases. The vocals no longer going blow for blow with the drums, instead rising above, moving over the clatter in waves, finding peace in a space of their own.
"When we play, we are completely dedicated to the song, the beat, the energy," adds Mariam." We push each other further and further. We wanted the record to sound as intense as our live shows, and as chaotic as the world around us. We decided this should be our 'going back to our roots' album. Drums and voice.Rhythms." While the drums and vocal template is timeless in itself and central to the band's vision, that raw focussed energy leaves a record as vital as it is life-affirming. The liberated abandon of their primitive soul music striking an immediate and invigorating chord.
Wildbirds & Peacedrums will tour Europe in November, including London'sVillage Underground on the 14th (their first UK show in four years).
Photo credit: Klara Källström & Thobias Fäldt