BAY 76CD - Rivers (BAY 76CD)
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Rivers by Wildbirds & Peacedrums
Formats: 2015 Leaf 20 Edition Black Vinyl LP + CD (BAY 76V) 2015 Leaf 20 Edition White Vinyl LP + CD (BAY 76V) Double CD (BAY 76CD) Single CD (BAY 76CDS) Digital (BAY 76E)
Release Date: 23 August 2010

Rivers is the mesmerising 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 was initially released as a double CD in a deluxe gatefold wallet, with one EP represented on each disc, with the ten songs also available to download. A limited edition single LP is available now on black and white vinyl as part of Leaf 20, as well as a single CD edition.

Characteristically, Wildbirds emphasise instinct, emotional rawness and purity of expression over perfection. The whole album was recorded and mixed in Reykjavík in a single week, and retains an intentionally spontaneous, live feel. A new sense of restraint and control is apparent, compared to Wildbirds’ previous albums (2008’s Heartcore and 2009’s The Snake) and their blistering live shows, consciously bringing Mariam Wallentin’s lyrical concerns into clearer focus. While the two EPs are sonically quite distinct, they complement each other with 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.

Following a period of careful preparation, Mariam and her husband Andreas Werliin travelled to Iceland in late January. Collaborating with cellist and arranger Hildur Guðnadóttir (who has worked with The Knife, Nico Muhly and is a member of Múm and who proved to be the catalyst for the project), they were abetted 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’d hoped. The emotions are more subtle and dark. And we wanted to somehow collect these emotions and make them into songs that are connected. The lyrics are linked to each other and the sound is deliberate and thematic, designed 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 modern Guðríðarkirkja church with the 12-strong Schola Cantorum Reykjavík Chamber Choir (who also featured on Björk’s Medulla album), with arrangements by Guðnadóttir. Standouts are the atmospheric ‘Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood’ and the powerful, percussive ‘Fight For Me’. At the time of writing, Retina had been awarded Single Of The Month by both Artrocker and DJ magazines in the UK.

Recorded in Reykjavík’s Greenhouse studios, the five songs that make up Iris are an oasis of introspection measured against Retina’s overwhelming torrent. The songs revolve around the uniquely resonant sound of the steel pan – Mariam’s current musical passion. Alongside her 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 ambiance.

The Rivers project was conceived for live performance as much as anything, and for the first time Mariam and Andreas recorded their music as it is meant to be heard, almost entirely live. 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.

'Peeling Off The Layers' was used as the title music to Sky Atlantic drama Fortitude.

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1. Bleed like there was no other flood
2. Tiny holes in this world
3. Under land and over sea
4. Fight for me
5. Peeling off the layers
1. The Wave
2. The Drop
3. The Course
4. The Lake
5. The Well

BBC Music
All Music Guide
Subba Cultcha
Music OMH

Retina EP
Iris EP
'Bleed Like There Is No Other Flood' video
The Control Group
Haldern Pop Recordings