Us & Them — Fading within the Dwindling Sun
(Fruits de Mer crustacean 75, 2016, 10")
by Henry Schneider, Published 2016-12-10
Just in time for Christmas Sweden’s Us & Them have a new color vinyl ten inch on Fruits de Mer. And quite an ambitious one as they cover five different songs by the iconic Sandy Denny. Attempting to cover a song belonging to Sandy is dangerous as it will immediately draw comparisons. Fortunately Britt’s pure and breathy voice adds a new dimension to these songs along with the acid folk reinterpretation. The disc opens with a Fotheringay song “Winter Winds.” Sandy’s vocals on the original were a bright light. In contrast Us & Them’s cover adds a darker and sadder feel to this delicate and eerie song. The next is Richard Thompson’s “Farewell, Farewell” that is so similar to Pentangle’s “Willy O’Winsbury.” What Us & Them have done is taken this beautiful song and enhanced it with Andy Settenham’s Mellotron. The third song, “Next Time Around,” is from Sandy’s solo album North Star Grassman and the Ravens. This is another dark introspective cover with violins and drones. The traditional “Banks of the Nile” from Fotheringay is next. This song is one of the best known ballads arising out of the British campaigns against Napoleon. It is a touching song about a young woman wanting to go to sea with her man. He prevents her by taking shelter behind Naval regulations. When Sandy sang this song, she sang all the verses. Us & Them change it up by having Britt sing the girl’s part and Anders sing the sailor’s. And contributing to this painful parting of ways, Us & Them layer on more Mellotron and bass clarinet. The last song “Take Away the Load” is a song by Sandy written for Dave Swarbick and only appeared as a demo, though Swarbrick did eventually release it on Fairport's Gottle O’Geer. This final exquisite song is the shortest on the disc. Their cover brings a tear to your eye. If you step back and separate yourself from your Sandy Denny prejudices, you will find great joy in this release. And for those unfamiliar with Sandy Denny, you can approach this release with a wide open mind and enjoy the music by itself.
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more