When I was walking
It's no secret that Us and Them are heir to so many Anglo folk thrones that the very fact that they're Swedish feels like an act of outright subversion. Nobody else has taken the likes of Sandy Denny, Pink Floyd and the Wicker Man to the heights that Anders Håkansson and Britt Rönnholm have dared raise them, and while we impatiently await the duo's next album, the latest volume of the Mega Dodo Singles Club unfurls a green vinyl glimpse into what they've done lately.
Two new songs echo the last album's reliance on self-composed material, and - despite the plaudits that their covers richly merit - it's through their own pens that we see Us and Them at their unimpeachable best.
"Folky" in as much as that's the vein through which they flow most freely, but guileless in the ease with which they step beyond that, they conjure whispered symphonics and back-of-the-mind remembrances, the taste of summer days and the touch of remembered woodland, over which Rönnholm's voice floats with soul-snagging beauty. And then nags you with such fearless hooks and chorus lines ("Green Couch" has a fade to die for) that you never want to sleep again.
Another month, another Us and Them 45. Last time it was Sandy Denny covers, now it's originals in that U&T style; weird folk of the unexpected. When I was walking is an intimate song about love, but you'd be a pretty strange couple if this was ''our song''. With the tempo of a Tudo waltz, it lurches almost gaily, yet will smother you with a lavender-scented pillow while you sleep. Green couch is a place of refuge to watch the grim normal world go by, unseen but missing nothing. A fantastic electronic abstract noise like smoke swirling from a roll-up adds a vibe. Far odder than all the dark rock bands you can think of, loving, gentle and cruely twisted. These people should be stars.
I don't have this review digital but Shindig ! gave "Fading within..". a great review. In the same issue of the magazine they also give our January single 4 out of 5 and say: "They continue in a similar vein on the Mega Dodo single "When I was walking" has a kind of wyrd-folk wibe to it, like an outtake from a strange Wicker Man-style 70 pagan horror flick. It's beguilingly lovely , but with an odd, otherwordly feel. Timeless and capitvating."
The Strange brew
The Swedes follow up their EP of covers with a 7 inch of two original songs that deservedly nestle alongside the Denny classics. 'When I Was Walking' is gorgeous Wicker-esque acid folk, with the introspective b-side 'Green Couch' more straight ahead pop-folk but no less enchanting.
A Box of dreams
Beautiful, Timeless and utterly bewitching. If the winter winds don't give you icy chills, this will. This harkens back to the classic days of acid folk and if you miss this you deserve a one way trip to Summer Isle for May Day Celebrations as their guest of honour.
alas no sound cloud links on this one just yet, part of the mega dodo singles club and due for release early January, this is the quite exquisite Us and Them. Already responsible for having us all a swoon following having had the listening pleasure of hearing their imminent outing for Fruits de Mer, this one arrives arrives strictly limited to just 150 copies - all on green vinyl and features two newly cuts - 'when I was walking' and 'green couch' the former of which is a beautifully beguiled spectral mysterio that loosely orbits the dark seduction of the Stones' 'playing with fire' as reappraised a few years ago by - if I recall rightly - Crystaline Josephine all dreamily and bewitchingly hushed in a floral nocturne tapestry. 'green couch' on the flipside is quite something else, genteelly surrendering and shyly tender its elegant eeriness and adoring undulates tinkerishly daydream whilst drawing the dots between Beautify Junkyards and the Shortwave Set under the guiding hand of Renaissance.
Two new releases from Swedish folk duo Us and Them: a 10″ EP of Sandy Denny covers, out now on Fruits de Mer, and a 2-song 7″ of their own material, released in January 2017 on Mega Dodo. The 10″ is pressed on coloured vinyl and includes three songs written by Sandy Denny, along with two songs she is known for having performed: the Richard Thompson-penned Fairport Convention track Farewell Farewell, and the traditional folk ballad Banks of the Nile. Winter Winds is beautiful, hushed psych-folk augmented by lush strings. Farewell, Farewell has a soft and dreamlike feel, with guest musician Tony Swettenham's Mellotron adding to the ethereal mood of the arrangement. Next Time Around is reinvented as retro-futuristic, experimental folk-pop. Banks of the Nile has a luxurious feel with use of oboe and strings alongside floaty, atmospheric synth. Take Away the Load is gentle folk-pop accompanied by acoustic guitar and Mellotron orchestration.
The 7″ is available as a limited edition of 150 green vinyl copies exclusive to members of the Mega Dodo singles club, and 150 black vinyl copies available on a wider basis. When I Was Walking is informed by traditional folk whilst also incorporating psychedelic whimsy and a gentle, ethereal brand of retro-futurism. Green Couch is delicate folk-pop, with sparse acoustic guitar alongside evocative, whirling vintage electronics. Both releases are simply beautiful and well worth checking out.
Penny Black Music
It happens that you just know what to expect from a band or artist sometimes from the label they have chosen to release their music. Swedish duo Us and Them recently issued an EP on the wonderful Fruits de Mer label made up of Sandy Denny covers. For those yet to experience the beauty of the music that Britt Rönnholm and Anders Håkansson make together the results were just as you'd expect a handful of Sandy Denny songs to sound when given the Fruits de Mer treatment. In other words it is hauntingly beautiful.
Hot on the heels of that EP the label that many feel is the rightful home to Us And Them, the equally wonderful Mega Dodo label issue a limited edition green-vinyl 7" which is exclusive to members of the Mega Dodo Singles club. Thankfully for non-members the single is also available as a regular black vinyl edition, although this too is only being issued as a small run.
If I had to explain Sweden, the Sweden that I know at least and what I feel is the true picture, I'd advise people that although some of this Scandinavian noir gets close, 'hygge' (ok, ok, Danish, but close enough), the other Scandinavian trend that us Brits seem currently obsessed with, and which after twenty years of ties with both countries I've yet to experience (but it sells books, so, hey...) I'd point them in the direction of Us and Them. This duo captures the unsettling beauty of their homeland perfectly. No doubt every country has areas you wouldn't want to venture in to but the woodlands of Sweden are like no other place on earth. Vast woodlands that are so inviting yet have this dark undercurrent lurking around every twist and turn. You feel safe but at the same time feel an element of danger is never more than the sound of a footprint falling on a broken twig away.
Us and Them are aware of this sensation. One of their EPs was titled after their cover of Sandy Denny's 'By The Time It Gets Dark'; until the duo's recent above mentioned EP of Denny covers had one of her songs ever sounded so chilling? Another Us and Them EP featured songs from 'The Wicker Man'. Are the pieces beginning to fall into place? Us and Them draw us in because we're never sure of what is going to happen. There's always this element of surprise, this tiny part that longs for the weirdness, but is always safe in the knowledge that the good will always outweigh the bad.
Rönnholm and Håkansson are far from the only musicians who trade in this strain of psychedelic folk but they lend it a more honest, a more believable and yet an almost terrifying edge than any of their contemporaries. 'When I Was Out Walking' begins with gentle, acoustic guitar, otherworldly yet captivating sounds faintly blowing across the gorgeous melody, then Britt's bewitching vocals enter to complete the spell. Like most of their music, this track is also one of contradictions. Britt's vocals are at once both fragile yet tough, the melody and musical backing both comforting and slightly disturbing. The images the music conjures up capture both the melancholy feel of autumn and the promise of summer. The music is superbly performed, it appears to have been made on the most primitive, obscure instruments but is crystal clear and compliments Britt's vocals perfectly.
'Green Couch' is even better. With Britt's vocals almost reduced to a whisper, or as near to a whisper you can imagine this extraordinary vocalist producing, Anders provides such a rich yet concise musical accompaniment which brings out the best in the fragile beauty of Britt's vocals.
Many moons ago a couple of R'n'B enthusiasts tried to capture the beauty of one of their girlfriends on record and partially succeeded but the songs have begun to sound a little dated now; Us and Them have taken that template and made music that is not only beautiful but added shades of darkness which somehow ensure that this music should never sound dated. For those who always wanted a little more shade and depth in the young Marianne Faithfull's Decca recordings check out Us and Them. And be smitten.Skriv din text här ...