Wildbirds & Peacedrums: 18 Feb. 2010 - Chicago

Creating an auditory effect that is fully astounding, the married pair graced the stage at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago. Words and Pictures by Kirstie Shanley

There may be only two members of Sweden’s Wildbirds & Peacedrums but they manage to make the most of it. Creating an auditory effect that is fully astounding, the married pair graced the stage at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago in a way that suggested they could easily draw attention to themselves in a venue ten times as large.

Wildbirds & Peacedrums have been labeled by some as “experimental” and it’s true that they have a history of wanting to push the limits of their sound. But live they concentrated mainly on their most accessible and catchy songs from their most recent sophomore release, 2008’s The Snake. In addition, during many of their songs, the drumming created such a solid backbone that their songs contain a more concrete structure and one that seems more predictable than what the “experimental” label would suggest. In fact, though the band doesn’t sound like so much of the pop or folk music currently emerging out of Sweden at this time, the drumming at times does recall the energetic Lykke Li. It was especially vivid watching Mariam Wallentin takes up the drums alongside her husband, Andreas Werlin, demonstrating a truly dynamic chemistry between the two. “Today/Tomorrow” was particularly striking because of this effect.

In terms of percussion, there’s also a balance between the heavier drum sounds and steel drum, for example, which Wallentin played adeptly. It provided a warm tropical sound, preventing some of the more emotional weighty lyrics from overpowering the songs completely. “My Heart” was a perfect example of this working well, as Wallentin belted out “I’m lost without your rhythm”. Wallentin also triggered some base notes with her feet, using a foot controller producing sounds similar to those of an organ.

Mainly it was Mariam Wallentin’s voice I noticed though. Sorrowful at times, soulful at others, it could be considered a deep resonant lullaby except for the re-occurring note of discontent. There were also moments of growing edginess in the repetition of certain lyrics such as “She’s got a hold on me not in a tasty way…she kicks me up” in their song “Chain of Steel,” for example. Live, the vocals floated and hovered over the drum kit and audience. This effect combined with the dark magenta lighting created a bit of a spooky feel that certainly helped emphasize songs like “There Is No Light”. In terms of stage presence, Wallentin came to the edge of the stage a couple of times but both band members relied heavily on their musicianship instead of any stirring visuals. Still, their 45-minute-long set was memorable and very substantial. Wildbirds & Peacedrums are a band to follow presently and in what will hopefully be a promising musical future.

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