Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Lexington, London

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The Independent Culture

The Gothenburg duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums is an experimental collaboration formed in 2006 by husband and wife Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin.

Their improvisational aesthetic is characterised by steelpan and drum-kit percussion interspersed with vocals rooted in emotional intensity. Given the jazz label by some critics, their free-form compositions, accompanied by heavy strains of jazz-inspired vocals, combine to form an original sound that is powerful yet not over-produced.

They open the set with "The Wave", taken from their newly released album, Rivers. Wallentin (Wildbirds) slips comfortably into the role of pannist. Channeling the spirit of Janis Joplin, her vocal range has an earthy, raspy, bluesy quality and a nice balance of harmony and tone. Her striking physical stage presence, meanwhile, radiates a cool, effortless Scandinavian chic.

Imaginatively lyrical, the album expounds on themes of light, water and reflection; a sublime amphibious aurora reflected in sound. In contrast, the live set begins speedily, full of energy and spiked through with the occasional chant or howl. Many of the brooding choral elements that create a deeper vibrational pull on the album are absent.

A trio of songs, "My Heart", "The Well" and "The Drop", evoke the imagery of classical mythology and the Scandinavian fairy tales found in the Swedish folk-art paintings of Ivar Arosenius. Vocal improvisational techniques further intensify the ethereal dreamscape.

As the set progresses, however, the duo fail to capitalise on the momentum established early on. Wallentin's vocals gain in complexity and strength, a sonic spectrum of audible seduction, but the steelpan and drum kit alone are not substantial enough to carry the weightiness the songs demand – and the end result is repetitive.

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