This haunting three tracker by Swedish duo Us & Them includes confiding female-voiced acustic renditions of Tudor Lodge's Home to stay, Jackson C Frank's Dialogue and an intriguing seven minute amalgam of lullaby All the pretty little horses and a song that borrowed its tune, Pink Floyd's Julia dream.
These Swedes get to the rustic nub of their source material with a fine dispatch of forest fermented versions. Especially alluring is their concillation of Pink Floyd's Julia dream with the traditinell lullaby All the pretty little horses, which erects a crystalline faerie kingdom of icicled arpeggios and gossamer goose feathered webs. The b-side's none to shabby either, featuring a take on Jackson C Frank's spectral Dialogue that boasts all the unerring, eerie power of the original, while Tudor lodge's Home to stay gets revisited as a nightmarish nursery verse that'd have sat snugly with the friendly folk of Summerisle. Fruits de Mer's finest yet, no question.
For some reason, I always feel a section of musical history should be set aside for cover versions. There's a particular art to putting something together that's doesn't originate from you, but carries enough of you in it to make it special. And to set it apart from the myriad number of bands I come across, or more often who come across me, who purposely sound exactly like Oasis, Kings Of Leon, Foo Fighters or whatever and are therefore immediately worthless.
If there were a section for valuable and original cover versions, then both Bracken Records and Us & Them ought to have a prominent place within it. The Vibravoid Krautrock EP that featured as part of this series last year is still a firm favourite in my CD player, and this release now has a place right alongside it.
It's completely different, of course, from the swirling, vibrant assault of the Vibravoid EP. This one swirls, but in a very different way. Its plaintive vocals add a further element of wonder to Jackson C Frank's 'Dialogue' and the merging of 'Julia Dream' and 'All The Pretty Little Horses' for the elongated opening track is conceptual genius married to perfect artistic dexterity.
My favourite, and the track I'm featuring in my January show on Dandelion Radio, is the version of Tudor Lodge's 'Home To Stay', where those fragile vocals meet the spiky arrangement head on. This is the track I will feature if I ever get round to repeating the one-off cover versions special that featured on my old Idiot Jukebox radio show back in 1994 (I think).
Essentially, what this means is that the Bracken Records/Fruits De Mer have done it again. They've added, and keep adding, to the legacy of the cover version in music. And they've introduced me to an utterly wonderful musical project whose work I shall continue to explore with great curiosity.
Single of the week 1st December
US AND THEM - Fruits De Mer Volume Eight (Fruits De Mer) - Now this series is always worth checking out, this fine series of singles always throws together an ambitiously interesting set of well thought out treats. They don't hit the absolute spot every time, they're always worth checking out though. This eighth one might just be the best of the series so far. Us And Them are a Swedish boy/girl duo, she, Britt, sings and he, Anders, plays all the instruments. The instrumentation is simple, glowing acoustic guitar with some delicate warm keyboard textures underneath - minimal tunes that leave plenty of space for Britt's beautifully intimate voice to breath and glow, Us And Them are always good, this single is extra special.
Now this is a Fruits De Mer single so there's always a story and a slightly left-field song or two covered, always something extra to explore... they don't just throw out singles, this is all cleverly planed and considered and this time a treat of a musical coach pulled by six white horses... Us And Them does automatically pull thoughts towards Pink Floyd and the lead track here is a meltingly beautifully version of the relatively early Floyd classic Julia Dream, only it isn't quite that either because this almost seven minute version is a little bit more than just a cover. Seems the original Floyd version's melody was loosely based on a traditional folk lullaby called All The Pretty Horses, this is a gorgeously seamless and deliciously enchanting coming together of the two songs as one. The original traditional English lullaby and the quiet Floyd sound become one melting piece of must play again and again perfection called Julia Dream (All The Pretty Horses). Just right for curling up with, and yes hibernating until Spring with. You just have to hear it, the beauty can't be described here on (electronic) paper, words are not enough. The Pink Floyd starting point is rather beautiful anyway, never really heard a bad version of Julia Dream, this version is right up there with Rebsie Fairholm's, this is a special, a perfect mix of traditional folk and Floyd psychedelia... All so simple, all so clever, all so gorgeously rewarding.
And of course there's more, this is Fruits De Mer, the other two songs here are equally as interesting and almost as good (come on you couldn't expect these next two to be as good as that sunlight bright upon their pillow can you? Almost though, very close).
Tudor Lodge were one of those obscurely classic early 70's British acid-folk bands. Us And Them cover a Tudor Lodge song here called Home To Stay, a simple folk song that instantly has us scurrying to the web in search of more (seems they're still doing things). Meanwhile Dialogue is a Jackson C. Frank song - there's quite a story to him, big influence on Nick Drake (and an equally tragic figure so it seems), reputedly the person who persuaded Sandy Denny to pack up nursing and take up music full time. Dialogue comes from his much loved by those who know 1965 album. One of the darker tracks and one of the most beautiful, all we can say here is Us And Them have done Dialogue justice, and you know what, might just have been wrong about this not being quite as good as the lead track - definitely wrong, this is painfully beautiful. Easy to see how his songs influenced Nick Drake. And that Tudor Lodge song is beautiful as well, once again Us And Them have covered it in glowing style - all dreamy and intimate and just all so perfectly right. Pretty difficult to imagine Us And Them making anything that wasn't gorgeously glowing, that wasn't alive with almost perfect beauty.
This is a very special three track single, a play again and again and again piece of treasure that you really should check out. As always with the Fruits De Mer series, the single will be a very limited 7" pressing so don't hang around. One of the best singles for a very long time... Almost too good, must be something wrong here, nothing is this perfect? Oh yes, boring artwork... there see, we are being objective.
Head full of snow.com
So begins the first review of 2010. And where better to start than with the latest release from those retro vinyl-pushers, Fruits de Mer Records? This time they've called upon the services of Swedish anglophiles (musically, at least) Us & Them, and produced a 3-track EP worthy of Venus herself.
Now, before we crack on, it's worth mentioning that this site was once tagged by someone out there in the sprawling wilderness of the internets as "anti-folk". This was on the strength of a review of those warbling cat-stranglers The Incredible String Band and their so-bad-it's-awful album The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, and to say that Head Full of Snow loves a bit of acid, pastoral or wyrd-folk is a bloody great understatement.
Which is just as well in the case of Us & Them and their brand of gentle, but dark, folk stylings as demonstrated on the Fruits de Mer Volume Eight EP. Now if we'd been tagged "anti-jazz" that would be a different, yet fairer, matter.
As is the form with these Fruits de Mer limited edition vinyl releases, Us & Them knock out interpretations of songs from the sleepy mists of the sixties and seventies. This time around there's three of
the blighters, giving the disc EP status (extra player, for those born after 1990). These are Pink Floyd's 'Julia Dream', acid-folk combo Tudor Lodge's 'Coming Home' (though the song actually stems from a later reunion of the band), and American folk legend Jackson C Frank's haunting 'Dialogue'.
The girl-boy duo of Britt (vocals) and Anders (instruments) deliver three achingly beautiful acoustic psych renditions, maintaining the high standards set by previous Fruits de Mer singles, but it's 'Julia Dream (Of All the Pretty Little Horses)' that really stands out.
The original Pink Floyd song is given an acoustic workout and seamlessly blended with the traditional lullaby 'All the Pretty Little Horses', the melody of which provided the basis for Roger Waters' original composition. This unique seven-minute arrangement is a ghostly requiem, plucked from a swirling ether of abandoned souls that evokes memories of not only David Gilmour's original vocal, but Mark Fry's lingering brand of acid-folk and Jacqui McShee of Pentangle. Once heard, it's hard to shift the wistful allure of 'Julia Dream (Of All the Pretty Little Horses)' from the mind - not that you'd want to.
Full marks, once again, to Keith and Andy on their unorthodox, yet successful labour of love, and for securing the services of the excellent Us & Them in this, volume eight of their cracking series.
SOUNDS LIKE? You often want excitement and thrills, to enjoy your youth, bright colours, blue skies, you want to be stimulated and given no time to think and reflect. Other times you get into the thinking and the reflecting, mainly thinking and reflecting on how great it is being young and how not so great it is being older with a mortgage. Luckily the grand palette of music we have at our disposal covers every possible mood and emotion. Whether it's libidinous lustings or sobbing anger, there is a musical genre out there for your current state of mind. This EP from Swedish duo Us & Them is for the more relaxed moments, for those who like to muse, for the readers and reflectors, the poets and thinkers, the maudlers and the sleeping. Do not expect to pogo. Expect to sit, listen and furrow your brow in contemplation, maybe even stroke your chin.
IS IT ANY GOOD? Most people don't like music. It's a fact, though most will try and argue that I'm wrong, mostly by saying they listen to music all the time, like in the car, at the supermarket, in the pub and down the club, which just reinforces my point. Most people don't like music, they like products and brands, they like unchallenging noise that hooks in their minds and saves them from thinking their own dangerous thoughts. Most people don't want challenging music, meditative music or even albums of music anymore. The public wants bubblegum, lots of it, just so long as it can be remixed to a house beat and played in a continuous mix whilst they swallow Sours shooters down the local grease pit, then they are happy. I'm sorry, that's just people, I see them everywhere like cattle chewing cud into mobile phones, all of them with about as much taste as a used lollipop stick.
This unfortunately means that most people won't like Us & Them, which is a shame as they make beautiful, haunting music, a bit like The Wicker Man soundtrack being sung by Capser the Friendly Ghosts mum. All of the songs on this EP are covers, 'Home to Stay' by Tudor Lodge and 'Julia Dream' by Pink Floyd have become, in the hands of Us & Them so fragile you stop breathing in case you break them. The third cover. 'I Want To Be Alone(Dialogue)' is covered in the same way, unfortunately losing the immediacy and emotion of Jackson C. Frank's original, though still pleasant nonetheless. Highly recommended to anyone who doesn't watch X-Factor.
Adventures In Plasticland, 98.5 airwave
Simple similarity, sombre sonic serenity, loose languid lucidity. An exquisite ethereal excursion into the realm of one's psyche. Perhaps peering outside against a frost etched window at a Canadian winterscape it becomes apparent that these three tracks, intermeshed and entwined, become the perfect backdrop on a night such as this. As I listen, the snow glistens and the Mill Race Mild Ale stimulates a parched throat with darkened amber and a new friendship begins.
Fruits de Mer, a gem of a record label, has set another jewel into it's psychedelic ring. A true record collectors' label, bands that cover songs that most of us may not of heard, but perhaps read about in our musty and dusty "collectable" bibles.
Us and Them, Anders and Britt. And a new EP : All The Pretty Little Horses/Julia Dream. Guitar strings are plucked and moribund chords fall like molten feathers, betraying the haunted heaviness much as a snuffed candle's wafting smoke. Her voice...liquid silver drops, spilling against a backdrop of birch trees, standing stark, maddened amidst a whitefall curtain of snow, let pour down, drunken and windswept from a battleship grey heaving sky.
"All The Pretty Little Horses" shimmers, somersaults and splices into "Julia Dream", non identical twins, seamlessly caressing and cocooning, as much so as the ale spider lacing your grey matter custard. Sheer brilliance, and opulent in their delivery, effervesance illuminating an otherwise bleak path. Happy/sad, familiar in a "womb" sort of way.
"Dialogue": ..."I want to be alone", sung as a pin dropped to the floor, reverberating. Vocal and guitar transcend a frightened heightened urgency. Alone and scared, a paean to the dark recesses where one's mind is rapt in torturous ardour. Expecting more, the guitar ends in hiss, guillotined by silence.
"Home To Stay": Like a fine wine and Julian Bream, then her voice prods like the sun peeking and peering into the crack of a curtain, playfully awakening the senses one by one. A multitude of instrumentation, but just, recedes and then jibes again, complete and replete with a celeste(?).
Here (hear) everything old is new again. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and yes Virginia, in these fading times of vinyl, there is REAL music.
Us and Them......no contest, a true winner. Anders and Britt, take your deserved bow.
This latest EP in the great series dedicated to the seasons done by this still unknown Swedish duo, Us & Them, making their vinyl debut with a 7 minute acoustic arrangement and interpretation of a mixture of early Pink Floyd's "Julia Dream" combined with the traditional "All The Pretty Horses". Julia Dream originally was based upon this traditional too (even when hardly noticeable), so the duo brought back both inspirations into something new actually. This starts with an intro with two quiet picking guitars directing towards the traditional, with some whispery folkie female lead voice intro, improvising further towards more psychedelic realms that lead logically and quickly to "Julia Dream" which is led by harmony vocals with an echoing rhythm on guitar and a dominating moody, dreamy keyboard arrangement expressing itself as if being inside a clock rhythm based world, an Alice in Wonderland dream, before some electric guitar theme and acoustic guitar theme takes us back to the original of "All The Pretty Horses".
The second song is a simple, gorgeous guitar with voice (and sparse keyboard touches) cover of "Home to Stay" (from the early 70s acid-folk/folk/acoustic band Tudor Lodge from their one and only album which was a bit in the Magna Carta vein). But also the sparse interpretation of "Dialogue" (Jackson C. Frank) is equally effective and charming, with its whispery lead vocals and vocal overdub and arrangement, while repeating the same keyboard sound (as on "Julia Dream") but here with a more bright crystal light fantasy effect. All very effective : highly recommended.
Ice cream for quo magazine
"Beautiful, intimate wintry folk...they do an especially good job on Pink Floyd's 'Julia Dream'. Perfectly judged, gorgeous and genuinely haunting, this three-track ep evokes icy fields at midnight. The elegant snowscape artwork/lyric booklet completes a rather lovely package"
A beautiful, dreamy version of the song (Julia Dream), it drifts into your consciousness and makes itself comfy"
A cover of Floyd's 'Julia Dream' merged with the traditional 'All The Pretty Horses' that apparently inspired the melody of 'Julia'...There are also versions of 'Home to Stay' (Tudor Lodge) and the haunting 'Dialogue' (Jackson C. Frank)...Us & Them make beautiful music, and it's possibly the best FdM release yet (however, I still really like Stay, Mark Fry & Vibravoid!!!)! Gentle / dreamy female vocals, sparse musical backing...It's almost perfection! Forget about everything for a while and lose yourself in this!Excellent fragile acoustic psych"
Us & Them are the swedish boy/girl duo of Anders and Britt who create a warm, almost paganist style of traditional folk
littered with psychedelic references and canterbury prog-folk tendencies. The second side contains two reworked Tudor Lodge tracks; 'Home to Stay' and 'Dialogue'. Slow burning and eerily atmospheric in approach this tracks are totally Wicker Man... If you know what i'm saying. With the source material translated with great care and enthusiasm these Tudor Lodge tracks feature beautifully arranged instrumentation and act as a fitting tribute to the acid folk pioneers. The A-side features the Roger Waters penned 'Julia Dream (Of All the Pretty Little Horses)' as well as a reworking of a traditional arrangement credited to the group. Again, both tracks toy with the acid folk formula and make for incredibly twee listening.
One of my 'discoveries' of 2011 were Swedish duo Us & Them, Anders plays all insruments and Britt sings like a Nightingale. This three song EP was released in a quantity of 500 by new English indie label Fruits de Mer during December 2009 and every copy sold within weeks, indeed this record is already commanding bids above $50 on Ebay.
The music on offer is acoustic based; very haunting textures are formed within their aural soundscapes. The lush dreamlike patterns are brushed with colours of melancholy and it's obvious that Us & Them have well and truely mastered the late 60s' early 70s acid-folk sound from England.
'Dialogue' also known as 'I Want To Be Alone' is a version of Jackson C Frank's folk gem from 1965. Anyone choosing his work to interpret has got to be taken seriously. That guy influenced many a folk troubadour including Nick Drake, but is largely unknown and forgotten.
Other covers follow with 'Home To Stay' originally recorded by Tudor Lodge. The other side of the disc has a quite brilliant version of 'Julia Dream' by Pink Floyd interwoven with an olde English traditional lullaby called 'All The Pretty Little Horses'.Skriv din text här ...