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Wildbirds & Peacedrums – The Snake [The Leaf Label]

June 25, 2009

Never to be underestimated, Sweden has pumped out some fierce contenders in the musical arena. Obviously there was ABBA; the official soundtrack of hen parties up and down the country. And having lived in Brighton for five years, I have seen my fair share of hens, devil-horned and glittery, taking over dancefloors to ‘Waterloo’ like they were re-enacting the 1815 battle.

But Roxette, Ace of Base [ah sweet youth…], Neneh Cherry, The Cardigans, The Hives, Robyn and more recently First Aid Kit, Those Dancing Days, Little Dragon and Lykke Li are all part of the mix that has cemented Sweden as a heavyweight exporter of pop. [Lest us not forget Dr Alban and his wise words about not taking coke and singing hallelujah that appear to have fallen on deaf ears to the generation who’s ‘Dance Now 93’ compilations he featured on.]

A new Swedish group to emerge on the scene last year had a debut album that quietly made it’s way onto a few ‘best of 2008’ lists; Wildbirds & Peacedrums’ Heartcore with its simple pounding drumbeats and eerie but soulful vocals marked out Andreas Werliin and Mariam Wallentin’s simplistic approach to great music. A husband and wife duo, Andreas mainly remains behind the drums whilst Mariam’s raw, drowned vocals cover the tracks like icing on a cupcake.

The good news is that they aren’t keeping anyone waiting either. One year later, their follow up release The Snake is just as strong, if not stronger than Heartcore, So much for the difficult second album.

Showing everyone what they’re made of, the first single ‘There Is No Light’ is like being punched in the face with a bass drum. Cacophonous beats and beautiful wailing rile you up ready for warfare [perhaps even enough to take on the ABBA hens]. In comparison ‘Chain of Steel’ and ‘So Soft So Pink’ are the equivalent of crawling inside a duvet full of goose down.

Without a doubt the track that jumps out in front of you, waving its arms frantically vying for your attention is Places. Excruciatingly soul-soaked, Mariam’s voice rises and falls to the carnival marching rhythm provided by her husband. A quiet bridge, a repeated chorus of ‘Someone’s is gonna lose something…’ and a build up to a cymbal-bashing fanfare; the flawless mixture of teeth-clenching pain and blissed out pleasure.

The Snake comes to a perfect close with the almost eight-minute long ‘My Heart’. Mariam’s lyrics ‘I am lost without your rhythm’ may or may not be referring to Andreas but by this point you might as well be singing it to them like you’re a loved up teenager in front of a Zac Efron poster.

[Originally reviewed for Avenue 61]

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