Us & Them is a duo consisting of singer Britt and Anders. Mega Dodo released their album 'Summer Green and Autumn Brown' in October 2015. Their new single, 'When I Was Walking' is released in January 2017 as a very limited edition of 150 copies black vinyl and download.
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.
Dave Thompson: Goldmine
To both kick off the new year and to follow up their new EP of Sandy Denny covers for Fruits de Mer, Britt and Anders are releasing a brand new single of original material on Mega Dodo. If you’ve been following Us & Them on Exposé, this band needs no introduction. The two songs extend their growing musical canon. “Green Couch” is a delicate and dreamy acoustic song with just a tad of electronics to augment Britt’s bucolic breathy vocals. The title track is a timeless acid folk waltz with dark surreal imagery and ethereal violin. Its slow tempo will have you swaying to and fro. If you have not previously heard Us & Them, then their new single is a good place to start.
Henry Schneider, Expose online
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 Tudor waltz, it lurches almost gaily, yet will smother you with a lavenderscented 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 cruelly twisted. These people should be stars.
Ian McCann: Record Collector
Hot on the heels of their recent Sandy Denny tribute EP on Fruits de Mer, Us and Them release this brand new 7” on the equally fab label Mega Dodo Records. This time round they've featured two of their own songs – 'When I Was Walking' and 'Green Couch'. The Swedish duo don't disappoint. Soft, beautiful and timeless. Two tracks that could melt the iciest of hearts. As the world heads into the unknowable and unpredictable future it's comforting to have such stellar music. Check out the video for 'When I Was Walking' and lose yourself in its beguiling power.
Duncan Fletcher: Harmonic Distortion
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.
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.
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.
Dave Thompson, Goldmine
Us and Them are the Swedish duo of Britt Rönnholm and Anders Hakanson. They debuted in 2008 with a CD on their own Withdrawn Recordings label and also have had EPs on the Ritual Echo and Fruits de Mer labels. My introduction to the duo was their stunningly gorgeous Pagan-Folk inspired Songs from The Wicker Man collaboration with Frobisher Neck, released by Fruits de Mer. And now Mega Dodo has released their first full length of original songs: Summer Green and Autumn Brown.
Us and Them create some of the most beautifully delicate and pastoral Folk based Psychedelia I’ve ever heard. Britt’s vocals out Sandy Denny’d the original with their cover of Denny’s By The Time It Gets Dark on last year’s Fruits de Mer EP. But there are Prog and spacey influences as well. The music at times evokes early acoustic driven Genesis, but can also be gently symphonic and nearly always includes a spacey Pagan-Folk vibe, plus bits of Medievalism, dashes of Baroque and elements of 60s Pop-Psych. We’ve also got the added twist of cosmic synths and sci-fi effects. The spacey elements are typically light… They color. They embellish. They put Us and Them outside the box without being overly intrusive. The melodies are spellbinding, with guitars and vocals flowing like an enchanted forest magic carpet ride. From one song to the next I felt like I was hearing a siren call, enticing me into Rönnholm and Hakanson’s dreamy wilderness.
The synths get more front and center attention on a couple tracks. Here Again is a little different, going deeper into space than other songs and even getting into some intense electronic experimentalism. And the 10 minute From The Inside, Looking Out is the album’s Space-Folk-Prog epic, with its cosmically moody atmospherics and sometimes doomy vibe that intersperses with the trademark Us and Them Folk infused surrealist beauty. They should have named this album The Seduction. A shoe-in for my Best of 2015 list.
Summer Green and Autumn Brown is available in CD, vinyl LP and download editions, plus a limited (100 copies) 4-CD set that, in addition to Summer Green and Autumn Brown, includes the band’s three Fruits de Mer EPs. The 4-CD set is exclusive to the Mega Dodo Bandcamp page.
Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations
"Summer Green And Autumn Brown" contains 10 songs, of which the first is A "New Beginning" is a nice psychedelic piece of quiet music playing that is just over 1 minute and is followed by "We Are Scared", another excellent light psychedelic folk song with dreamy vocals The duo then proceeds with "Late Night, Early Morning" a beautiful folk song duo, with the dreamy vocals and electronic music that fascinates me from beginning to end.
"State Of Mind" is another song with fragile vocals, with quiet guitar accompaniment, after which there is "Another View Of Us" a fantastic folk song with a catchy rhythm, which had me swaying in time to the beat of the music. "Here Again" is a great nice quiet psychedelic folk song with a light hypnotic rhythm for, which I enjoyed very much. "Precious Time" goes further with Us And Them making their beautiful quiet folk music, with an infectious rhythm. "From The Inside, Looking Out" plays for 10 minutes and is an excellent folk song, it sounds psychedelicbut just like the rest of the songs is quiet and dreamy. Us And Them has with "Summer Green And Autumn Brown" made a folk album for any lover of acid folk and dreamy music.
New Underground Music, 31/08/2015
More strange things are happening in Sweden………….. In early 2010 Swedish Acid Folk duo Us And Them released the Julia Dream Of All The Pretty Horses EP on Fruits de Mer Records. It was very well received by Mojo and Record Collector and is now sold out. In October 2011 Fruits de Mer released the Summerisle EP where Us And Them covered four songs from the The Wickerman. In 2012 they joined Ritual Echo Records and released four of their own songs on the Walk Light EP. Following these well received EPs, Us And Them now release their first album, Summer Green And Autumn Brown, on Mega Dodo Records. Made up of Britt Rönnholm, who sings, and Anders Håkanson, who plays the instruments, Us And Them play beguiling Psychedelic Folk deeply inspired by the music of Sandy Denny, Donovan, Bert Jansch, Vashti Bunyan, Duncan Browne and Pentangle and this beautiful record reveals all these influences.
As if by strange magic, Us And Them have created an album of such fragile beauty that is part pastoral folk, part something more melancholic…Dominated by Britt’s haunting voice Summer Green And Autumn Brown reflects the changing of the seasons, slowly shifting from a trippy, slightly proggy, stroll through lush fields and woodland landscapes flecked with sunshine and shadows to a hazier place where the dark nights are slowly drawing in and there is a chill in the air. Like label mates BeautifyJunkyards, Us And Them write gorgeous songs that absorb the best of 60s/70s Acid Folk inflected with an element of Folktronica that suggest that they are both from the past and the not too distant future. Summer Green And Autumn Brown opens with the soothing instrumental, ‘A New Beginning’, which sets the mood for the rest of the album before easing into ‘We Are Sacred’……. synths gently bubble up from beneath the surface of a gentle pool of acoustic guitars and Britt Rönnholm’s beautiful voice evoking a serene 60s/70s alternative universe where Donovan is fated as a living deity. The remainder of the album is woven from the same delicate gossamer thread where songs drift out of ether before being caught on the wind. There is a change of mood on the trippy ‘From The Inside, Looking Out’ which has more of a Prog Rock feel and is a wonderful ten minutes of woozy, swirling psychedelia, part cosmic and part from the dark forest. This is a stunning Acid Folk record and we can’t recommend it enough………….turn on, tune in……..bliss out.
US AND THEM Summer Green and Autumn Brown CD/LP (Mega Dodo)
Us and Them are a Swedish psych-folk duo comprising Britt Rönnholm and Anders Håkanson. Following a number of EPs on Fruits de Mer, Ritual Echo, and their own label Withdrawn Recordings, they are now releasing their debut album, which will be out on 23rd October, available as a CD, 180 gram vinyl limited to 250 copies, or a 4 CD set limited to 100 copies, which includes the album plus 3 CD EPs. We Are Sacred is beautiful psych-folk combined with vintage electronica and prog touches. Late Night, Early Morning is delicate folk-pop ornamented by twinkling electronics that evoke an image of soaring through the cosmos. State of Mind sounds like Vashti Bunyan being accompanied by members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Here Again has a warm and cosy sound yet with that slightly eerie and melancholic undertone that you get with all the best psych-folk. Right at the end, the track morphs into a slice of intense, spacey electronic experimentation to rival that of any spacerock outfit. From the Inside, Looking Out is an epic track more than 10 minutes long, featuring cinematic electronics blended with vocal harmony-driven folk with a perfect balance of light and dark. This truly is a top-class album, which perfectly combines mellow psych-folk and retro electronica in a way that really works. It's right up there with the recent Beautify Junkyards album also on Mega Dodo; if you dug that then be sure to check this one out too.
Us and Them are a lovely, chilled out acid folk duo from Sweden. Britt Rönnholm (vocals) and Anders Hakanson (guitar and keyboard) resonate like a great lost folk group from the late 60s, keeping company with the likes of Fairport Convention or The Incredible String Band. They have that closeted, intimate warmth often associated with bedroom recordings. The sound is spare, maybe even lo fi, but its delicate meanderings are mesmerizing and austere. Britt paints her songs with lacy strokes, her lovely alto darkening things just enough to keep the listener from floating away altogether. I am especially taken with the gorgeous “Another View of Us”, which is airy and has meaningful lyrics that stay with you after the tune has faded away. This is music with an autumnal vibe, a soundtrack to accompany the listener through multihued forests. It also wraps itself warmly around my ears like a comfy afghan, drawing me into its depths. “We Are Sacred” is a pastoral gem, with its combination of chamber pop (think harpsichord) with folk overtones. “Late Night, Early Morning” is aptly named, a song for a cold, gray November day with beautiful vocals from Britt, and equally lovely music to accompany her. The band also uses synths sparingly, which lends enough variety to the instrumentation to keep it all very interesting. “Here Again” is bright and charming with wispy vocals and chiming guitars and keyboards, but also has a hint of mystery to intrigue listeners. “Precious Moments” is close and confessional, delicately rendered with unique musical flourishes. “From The Inside, Looking Out” starts off disquieting and chilling, quite a different feel from the rest of this record. And then it transforms itself on the bridge to a sunnier feel, but that doesn’t last long. “Insight” is short and peaceful and winds down this beautiful release in a fitting manner.
This is a wonderful album that is highly recommended for fans who like edgy, folk-influenced music with deep roots in the past.
The Active Listner Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz
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.
Henry Schneider, Expose online
'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.
Nick Leese, Heyday Mail Order blog