Having heard much more from Mariam Wallentin’s other projects in this intermission period, it seemed that Mariam The Believer (her more pop-y Moshi Moshi Records endeavour) had taken precedence, leaving Wildbirds & Peacedrums to fade into something of a reference point to her more recent offerings (see The Wind EP – it’s great!). After immersing myself in Mariam The Believer I was worried about how this might unconsciously crowbar itself into the more minimal, raw mantra of Wildbirds & Peacedrums, and leave Rhythm a little messy.
My worries were quickly abated when I sat down and listened to the record in full. These two projects remain wonderfully distinct. Rhythm is a skeletal reverberating masterpiece. The opening track, Ghosts & Pains, starts with a building spare percussion from Andreas Werliin that holds a mildly tribal feel, intensifying the lilting rise and fall of Wallentin’s breathy, powerful vocals. The percussion is rallying, and dances around the brimming and raw vocal witchcraft. Immediately, Rhythm establishes itself as akin to their second album, The Snake, yet it feels even more honest and minimal – it really is a dialogue between the drums and vocals, between husband and wife.
Around two minutes into Gold Digger, Wallentin breaks out into a spoken-word / rap sequence, backed with a steady crescendo of drums and driving backing cries (I can’t do it justice - it sounds better than this, trust me).
You’ve got to explain it all, feel it all Oh fuck it all, steal it all, control it all.
Wallentin’s cries come across as a kind of desperate mantra with Werliin’s drums wordlessly conversing back. At these moments, Rhythm displays a sense of raw honesty, emulated by the simplicity of structure and instrument choice; it really is an intense dialogue between the couple as they try to create something that meaningfully documents their intense, frustrating, creative relationship.
Mind Blues, with its bizarre innovations and wonderfully childlike and sporadic drums, opens full of promise, yet in its jumping it leaves a few minutes of extra wanting for these clanging discoveries to resolve into a less abrupt end. Single, Keep Some Hope, begins very tUnE-yArDs, circa Whokill. It seems to be one of the most accessible songs, with its memorable chorus taking up most of the track. Finale, Everything All The Time, is an incessant, brimming culmination. It showcases the range of depth that Wallentin’s voice holds; blues-y lilting, staccato breathiness, and emotional richness.
Rhythm is a force, unafraid of candid moments of quietness, and rise and fall. The simplicity of it is genius and it’s utterly refreshing to experience an album with such elemental sparseness, yet such a richness in sound. At moments the marriage of percussion and voice is almost frustrating, teasingly dissonant. However, this makes for an album that begs many a re-listen in order to make sense of the noise and rhythm pummelled into the listeners ears. Perhaps the overall sound is quite same-y (for the likes of Coldplay, a condemning characteristic), but if you’re willing to embrace the stripped back nakedness of Wildbirds & Peacedrums then this isn’t a problem. For me, it’s something to celebrate.