Summer green and autumn brown
How long have we been waiting for this?
Across a string of priceless, and damned near peerless EPs, the Swedish duo of Britt Rönnholm and Anders Håkanson have established themselves among the most tantalizing outfits around, be it their so-evocative reawakening of The Wicker Man soundtrack, the Walk Light EP, or their take on Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky"... or more.
Hasten thee to Bandcamp and pick up one of a limited edition (100 copies) of a four CD box set that includes three past EPs from their Fruits de Mer catalog; then envelop yourself in the fourth (which is also available on standalone vinyl), the debut LP we've been demanding for so long.
In many ways, it's unknown territory, for listeners if not for the band. The lion's share of Us and Them's past releases has comprised covers; Summer Green and Autumn Brown, on the other hand, is resolutely self-composed, but it's unmistakable regardless. Rönnholm's vocals have such a distinctive tone, after all, halfway between seductive lilt and conspiratorial murmur, and with instrumentation that both matches and, occasionally, counterpoints, her moods, the album builds, slowly but swiftly, into the sound of...
Falling leaves, chill evenings, blue mornings, an album that could only be released as fall gets its grip on you, but will leave you dreaming of woodsmoke and damp undergrowth all year long.
Of course that's an image that the album title only encourages, but close your eyes and you can hear the wind as it whispers through bare trees and scrappy undergrowth, and Rönnholm's is the voice that sings above the sounds of nature, the witch who croons as she stirs the cauldron; the music you wish you'd learn to hum as you read the brothers Grimm in your childhood.
If this is truly folk music, then its roots are more ancient than any you've heard, and that's as true in the fragility of the instrumentation and melodie, as it is in the occasional abruptness of the lyrics... a review of the album at Heyday Mail Order has already commended Rönnholm for delivering the most beautifully sung "fuck" in recorded history ("State of Mind"), but "Another View of Us" is one of the most ornately honest portraits of a relationship you'll ever hear, too.
Never raising its voice, never getting over-excited, Summer Green and Autumn Brown finds its place and states its intent with its opening, extended, intro, and does not lose sight of it till the needle hops off after "Insight." Again, other reviews have suggested there's a conceptual air to the full cycle, and maybe there is. Better, though, to view it as one long and lingering frozen moment; one that you hope will never end. Although, when it does, you can always play it again.
The latest in a series of varied albums put out by the ever-expanding Mega Dodo Records is "Summer Green And Autumn Brown" by Us And Them, which, as the album title suggests, is a pastoral, folk-inspired work evoking woods, forests and much more. After a delightful introduction of acoustic guitar the first full song 'We Are Sacred' develops into an acid-folk trip through beautifully recorded, played and sung music. The duo are Swedish, though the songs are sung in English, and all the songs have that heart of melody so often shown by Scandinavian bands, not least Deleted Waveform Gatherings, La Fleur Fatale, Barr and The Migrant, with this latter pair particularly good comparisons. 'Late Night Early Morning' is softly quiet, with perfectly judged synths and accompanying instruments, while 'State Of Mind' reminded me of the ethereal songs of Kelli Ali, in vibe and vocal style. 'Another View Of Us' opens with more 12-string acoustic magic, before another absorbing song wends its way through bucolic landscapes: "I have learned a trick or two to make you smile." Lovely song. 'Here Again' adds subtle vocal/reverb effects and a synth swish or two to the spectral mix, before a fuller chorus tugs the listener away; and again the mix of synths and subtle guitar is perfect. 'Precious Moments' has a faster tempo and multi-tracked vocals, while its melody, though original, somehow evokes folk standards, perhaps through its waltztime structure. 'Me And My Mission' end with vocals that are as near to "anthemic" as this laid back duo are going to get, while 'From The Inside, Looking Out' adds a drumkit and strings mellotron to the mix, providing the album's only jarring moment. Album closer 'Insight' adds flute mellotron and acoustic guitars that inevitably evoke the early Genesis sound, though it's another high quality song entirely of its own. There is a tradition of melodic, albeit often melancholy songs in Scandinavia, and this band follow that tradition in their own way. It's an enchanting work for lovers of the groups mentioned above. A couple of limited editions are being made available, so get one while you can.
After a string of EPs and compilation appearances on Fruits de Mer, Swedish duo Us and Them release a full album's worth of original tunes, Summer Green and Autumn Brown. Both the LP and CD are limited editions of 250 copies each. Also available as a Bandcamp exclusive are 100 sets of a 4 CD package including the band's past FdM releases plus the new album. And if you wait too long and can't snag a copy, you can always listen to the album on Bandcamp. Now to the music, Britt and Anders continue their exploration of acid-folk, psych, and gothic psych. If you are familiar with their cover tunes on FdM, you will be thrilled with Summer Green and Autumn Brown. The opening bucolic instrumental, "A New Beginning," is an apropos title for a collection of original songs. "We are Sacred" is an excellent acid-folk song with electric guitar, synths, and a tasteful harpsichord line at the end. Some songs feature simple melody lines, and others like "Another View of Us" contain beautiful melodic harmonies. I particularly enjoy "Me and My Mission" with its strong vocals and melody, plus there is some violin sneaking up at you in the middle. Then of course there is the epic "From the Inside, Looking Out" that also contains the lyric that forms the album title. This song is dark and eerie; the vocals alternate between sinister and melodic forming a gothic love song of sorts for the end of summer. And the album closes with "Insight," a song with a pleasant mix of acoustic guitar and synths, perfect for a summer's eve. Now that Us and Them have joined the Mega Dodo team, I hope that we will be hearing much more from them.
The Sunday experience
If the promise of a delightfully dinked festooning of pastoral posies make your heart skip just a little faster, then may we gently guide you in the general direction of something simply enchanting about to break cover from its shy hideaway via mega dodo records. Us and Them ought to be no strangers to observers and passing visitors to these pages, several releases via fruits de mer have all found an affectionate ear here, however new platter 'summer green and autumn brown' is quite something else and ought to elevate them to the echelons of psych folk's top table. Mindful that the label appear quite smitten with the track 'we are sacred' (our copy coming replete with sticker apologetically pointing out the type pressing cock up preferring to have it as 'we are scared') and indeed it is a most beguiled thing, we here are rather taken with the ghostly romance unfurling on the simply mesmeric 'state of mind' which subtly dripped in 60's haloes whilst traced in spectral shadow play betrays an ever so gently nod in the direction of a youthful Broadcast. Be heartened for there will be a full review of this (I'm certain I've read somewhere of limited vinyl pressings and an expanded 4CD set - but don't quote me on that) along with fond words aplenty for a near perfect Beautify Junkyards, a live set from the immortal Brinsley Swartz and a mention for that 'a Séance at Syd's' book and companion CD set to come. Incidentally they all live here
Days of purple and orange
Us and Them are Swedish duo Britt Rönnholm (vocals) and Anders Hakanson (guitar and keyboard) who produce some of the most mesmerising and beautiful acid folk that have graced these ears in a long time. The duo should be familiar to afficionados of the Fruits de Mer label and have had 3 EPs released via that label. 'Summer Green And Autumn Brown' is their debut long player and it is the wonderful Mega Dodo label who have the honour of putting it out. When one thinks of female folk voices the name Sandy Denny is inevitably the first name from people's lips, however, Rönnholm's vocal musings should run a very close second; her melancholic yearnings the expression of a pastoral idyll from days gone by. That's not to say that 'Summer Green And Autumn Brown' is backwards looking, on the contrary, it mixes bucolic folk with some proggy elements and delving at times into experimental electronica, but never to the detriment of some beautifully performed and intelligently written songs. There is a definite edge to the duo's material, a sharpness that raises it above the normal folk fair; some songs are embued with a darkness and sadness that, perversely, make the album all the more satisfying. Special mention should go to the baroque stylings of 'We Are Sacred' and the 10 minute long 'From The Inside, Looking Out' the start of which sounds like Delia Derbyshire gone folk; it artfully mixes hauntological electronica with melodious folk to great effect. 'Summer Green And Autumn Brown' is a spellbinding collection of songs. As I sit listening and writing on a gloomy November Friday afternoon it takes me to sunnier places at times and to windswept, leaf-strewn autumnal glades at others. If you are to by one folk album this year then it should be this one.
'Summer Green & Autumn Brown'. It's the perfect soundtrack, now the days are getting shorter and the backdrop from my window is a wash of the colours brown, red, orange and yellow.
Us & Them are a male/female duo from Sweden who release gentle psych/pop/folk. The vocals are a notch above a whisper and the music, reflective, unfolds in its own time. There's no rush. It's all very beautiful!
I've returned to this album every day since receiving a copy. It's a song cycle of sorts, from the opening instrumental 'A New Beginning' to the closing 'Insight' (a reprise with the chant-like lyrics of 'Stay a while, stay for summer, stay for good') In-between, introspective lyrics, full of feeling. 'Summer Green...' is a well thought out piece of work. I'm grateful to have this job and have albums like this land in my lap!
The intro to 'We Are Sacred' is so intricate, it nearly knots itself as it twists and turns. The song is the sound of clockwork. I've never heard the 'f-word' sung so beautifully either, check out 'State Of Mind'! 'Here Again' hits me every time I hear the words '...and start the life I should be living'. Why? Probably because it's a statement of intent. There's strength in these lyrics, despite the gentle delivery. 'Me and My Mission' is a beautiful tune, uplifting chorus too. 'Step by step....' There's a film to be made by someone where this will roll out over the closing credits. Centre-piece is 'From The Inside, Looking Out'. The mellotron passage haunts, the lyrics yearn for freedom. Listen and weep.
On the surface, an album that may seem unassuming, but listen hard for the rewards. 'Summer Green And Autumn Green' is a Pandora's Box of emotions - sometimes things may not be right, but there's always hope."Skriv din text här ...