Rhythm comes naturally to Swedish pop band

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Eric Novak

 

Pop music is typically music of high production levels. Whether it’s the synth pop of Lady Gaga or the folk music of Mumford & Sons, there is an emphasis on a clean sound and a harmonic center built normally on some form of guitar, bass, drums, vocals and maybe keyboards. Sweden’s Wildbirds & Peacedrums’ latest album Rhythm comprised of singer Mariam Wallentin and drummer Andreas Werliin is just that, drums and voice. Apart from the occasional, sparse synth bass line, all of the textures and sounds are created by voice and percussion.

This stripped-down sound has characterized most of Wildbirds & Peacedrums’ work so far, but this album is by far their most stripped-down one yet, eschewing the more melodic percussion instruments and epic orchestrations on their last album, The River. The effect of these sparse arrangements is a very primal sound.

Wallentin’s voice is very upfront and raw-sounding, and Werliin’s drums are always driving and dry. The production style is also more upfront than their last release, giving the record a more intimate quality, where it sounds more live and improvisational than the last.

Despite the stripped-down sound, the album never feels like it is lacking something. Werliin’s unique control of his percussion setup makes him sound like a small ensemble of percussionists, where sometimes he is simply playing the drumset, and other times he augments his setup with other small idiosyncratic percussion instruments. Wallentin has an incredibly powerful and emotive voice that is capable of occupying a diverse range of textures and sounds. On “Keep Some Hope,” her voice becomes almost anthemic during the “chorus,” but then she is able to switch suddenly to almost a whisper.

As far as pop music goes, the song structures are usually pretty solidified. We all know the formula: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. Almost every pop song on the radio takes on this format because it works. It’s easy to comprehend and follow and makes songs easier to remember. However, on Rhythm, the song structures are much more blurred.

On “Everything All the Time,” the song feels improvisatory as Wallentin recites a hushed, spoken word section over a steady but urgent beat by Werliin. The songs on this album feel like each new section is a discovery, where the songs are more like journeys than typical pop songs. This gives the songs of the album a more organic flow and nothing really feels forced. The album is more interesting in the sense that the songs seem to evolve as you are listening to them.

Wildbirds & Peacedrums is an artist that I have consistently admired for creating melodies that are unexpected, original, catchy and organic all at the same time. The melodies sung by Wallentin are inventive and well sung by her extremely malleable voice.

The main melody in “Ghosts & Pains” incorporates chromaticism that is mostly heard in more serious classical music. The amount of influences present on this record is so numerous that they all blend together in such an organic way.

My main criticism of this album is that, while the melodies are inventive and original, they tend to blur together at certain points of the album. By the time I finished listening, I couldn’t separate all of the tracks from one another. In contrast to their last album, The River, many of the tracks on the album don’t stick out very much. While all of the tracks are enjoyable, it’s more difficult to separate them from one another.

Despite these flaws, the album still remains very enjoyable due to its raw energy and out of the box melodies. If only they could come from Europe and tour the United States.