After meeting at the Gothenburg’s Academy of Music and Drama, Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin began making music that flouted the conventions of formal musical training. On 2007′s Heartcore, the duo’s first release as Wildbirds & Peacedrums, they pounded away on hand drums and plucked zithers to create vigorous, undisciplined sounds. At base, they’re still the same band they were then — their music consists almost entirely of Werliin’s brisk drumming and Wallentin’s muscular vocals, her tics and ululations providing the thrust of spontaneity that’s earned them comparisons to experimental jazz.
Perhaps as a result of their accumulated years together, Rhythm is a more businesslike affair, composed of nine tidy tracks that are increasingly focused on technique. It’s a sometimes-striking approach: “Soft Wind, Soft Death” pairs close, drawn-out cluster harmonies with a manic whirlwind of drum fills in a reverent paean to mortality, and “The Unreal Vs. The Real” amps the menace up even further, giving Wallentin the space to work her voice up into a frenzied howl.
Most of Rhythm feels oddly clinical, however, and the aesthetic feels like a holdover from the late-’00s obsession with freak folk. Wallentin’s lyrics have always been more about visceral delivery than subtle observations, and here they often devolve into dexterity exercises (“Ghosts & Pains”) or list-making disguised as freeform riffing (“Mind Blues.”) Werliin’s percussion clips along capably, but rarely grabs for the spotlight. Without that wonky, frenetic energy, there’s more skill displayed than inspiration.