On their third LP, Swedish married couple Andreas Werliin and Mariam Wallentin package up two vinyl EPs – Retina and Iris released earlier in the year.
Recorded in Reykjavik over the course of a week with collaborators including cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir (Múm), Bedroom Community’s Ben Frost and Valgeir Sigurðsson, Rivers is defined in its first “Retina” half by the presence of the 12-member Schola Cantorum Reykjavík Chamber Choir who weave an eerie quality around Wallentin’s throaty timbre. Instrumentation is sparse with Werliin providing delicate percussion and drums to the songs when required. Standout track from the Retina side, ‘Fight For Me’ best illustrates the combination of the choir, echoing percussion and Wallentin’s lamentful vocals. The song also demonstrates the advantages of recording in a church: the choir sound enormous, foreboding and angelic all at once.
The second half – “Iris” falls into more familiar territory for the duo, albeit less frenetic than usual. The steel pan takes over from the choir as the defining instrument and Retina becomes the light-sided half, less cavernous (it wasn’t recorded in a church). As a result, it has warmth and allows Werliin and Wallentin’s experimental side to bury itself past the sheer enormity of Retina.
Taken as a whole, Rivers is the band’s most superior release so far – their stated intention of focusing on “light, reflection and water” has worked meaning the songs have succeeded in creating an earthy, multi-faceted and scopic landscape. Like a real natural wonder, you won’t want to visit too often but there’s a special atmosphere at work here.