Wildbirds & Peacedrums

“Live, they gain an animalistic intensity… Fantastic” 5/5 The Guardian (live review)

‘Their most emotionally satisfying work yet… Rivers is a record that will haunt you long after you’ve heard it’ 4/5 Mojo

‘This duo make the most extraordinary music… the choir’s sumptuous, understatedly eerie vocals blast Wildbirds & Peacedrums’ sound into the stratosphere.’ Time Out

‘Shimmers like rivers at dusk’ 4/5 Uncut

‘Beautifully realised’ Q Magazine

‘Builds on their voice/percussion thrust without diluting it’s raw, expressive force… they forge a language of their own’ The Independent

‘A haunting new offering’ Sunday Times

‘The star, overall, is Mariam’s voice, by turns soaring and austere, or acrobatic and alluring’ Daily Telegraph

‘This EP is great’ ‘Single of the Month’ 5/5 Artrocker

‘Hypnotic rhythms and a dark spiritual heart… Glorious stuff’ Music Week

‘Haunting, celestial, choral greatness… Unique and majestic’
‘Leftfield Single of the Month’ 4.5/5 DJ

Wildbirds & Peacedrums performed a cover of Björk‘s ‘Human Behaviour’ at the prestigious Polar Music Prize ceremony in Stockholm. The Icelandic star was named as a Laureate for 2010, along with soundtrack composer Ennio Morricone. Both were in attendance to receive their awards, presented by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

Rivers is the charismatic third album by Sweden’s Wildbirds & Peacedrums, combining the two limited edition vinyl only 12” EPs, Retina and Iris, which were released in May and June 2010 respectively. The album will be released as a double CD, with one EP represented on each disc, and, for the first time, the ten songs will also be available for download.

While the two EPs are sonically very different, they are intrinsically linked by unifying themes of reflection, light and water. Heard in the context of the album, the new songs are revealed as an extraordinary body of work. As always, Wildbirds emphasise instinct, emotional rawness and purity of expression over perfection – the whole album was recorded and mixed in a single week, following a period of careful preparation and rehearsal, and retains an intentionally spontaneous, live feel.

Recording in Iceland at the end of January 2010, husband and wife team Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin were aided by a stellar cast of contributors, including Australian émigré sound artist and engineer Ben Frost, and his Bedroom Community associate Valgeir Sigurðsson (Camille, CocoRosie, Bonnie Prince Billy) who mixed the songs.

“This strange, empty and wet country was perfect for the music,” says Mariam of working in Iceland, “Just as we had hoped. The emotions are more subtle and dark. And we wanted to somehow collect these emotions and make them into songs that are linked. Like the lyrics are linked to each other, the whole idea of the sound is very thought out and theme-based, to build up this special atmosphere.”

The Retina half of the album comprises five colossal songs, stratospheric in scale and emotional scope. Recorded in the Gudridarkirkja church with the 12-strong Schola Cantorum Reykjavík Chamber Choir (who also featured on Björk’s Medulla album), the songs were arranged by Hildur Guðnadóttir (who has worked with Fever Ray and is a member of Múm). Standouts include ‘Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood’ and ‘Fight for Me’, which provided the powerful finale of Wildbirds’ recent shows. At the time of writing, Retina had been awarded ‘Single of the Month’ status by both Artrocker and DJ magazines.

Recorded in Reykjavík’s Greenhouse studios, the five songs that comprise Iris focus on the uniquely resonant sound of the steel pan – Mariam’s current musical passion. Alongside Mariam’s haunting vocal and Andreas’ elemental percussion (and very little else), the instrument gives the recordings a more intimate, direct sound that counterbalances Retina’s more expansive ambience.

As wonderful as these recordings are, the project was conceived for live performance as much as anything, and Wildbirds are set to perform these songs across Europe following the album’s release, accompanied once again by a 12-piece choir, also re-imagining other songs from their repertoire. As Wildbirds & Peacedrums with Voices, they premiered the new songs at two phenomenal UK appearances in May: at the Pavement-curated ATP Festival, and a sold-out show at the 500-capacity Bishopsgate Institute in London (described by The Guardian as “fantastic” in their five star review).

A stunning video has been released for ‘Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood’, using footage shot during the recording sessions in Iceland and at home in Gothenburg. Watch it here: http://vimeo.com/11681801