Them & Us
Like Poison is available at:
The E.P., Chapter II: The Great Escape is available at:
The Valentinian (Feat. Rik Mayall)
Can’t Keep Coming Around
Oh My God
Safe Place (Bonus Track)
ONCE more I am back at the feet of one of the most…
assured duos in the U.K. I will get back to Them & Us shortly, but for now, I am reminded of a few different subjects. The issues of duos, variation and Electronic music are back under the microscope. When I look at the duos coming through at the moment- and something I have mentioned a few times before- there is so much diversity and difference occurring. I have bemoaned the lack of innovation in the solo market at the moment- and something affecting bands heavily too- so it is down to the duos to cling back some originality and quality. New music seems to be going through a depression at the moment and not providing as much wonder as you’d hope. The past few months have seen the odd great act come through, yet for my money, there are too few fantastic and memorable acts. It is left to look back at the established acts and artists coming through. Duos are among music’s most assured and reliable formations. In London alone you have such an array of genres and styles it is hard to get a grip on it all. I have reviewed everyone from the likes of Gypsyfingers and Jo Kelsey Music (featuring Niels Bakx); some multi-coloured and emotional music that has stuck in my mind- caused me to seek out similar duos and see what they are about. I have speculated before but I find the two-piece as solid and sensible a line-up as you can get. Band mentality means it often tempting (for bands coming through) to have their voice represented by the frontman/woman. A lot of times bands replicate their idols and stick too closely to others. There can be so many voices in the creative decision that the resultant sounds are muddled and unfocused. Solo artists have a similar problem whereby a lot of them- but not all of them for sure- tend to mimic and duplicate another. Being the sole voice of the music the decision-making can often be unwise and unchecked. What with the strain and effort of progressing- having few others bodies to promote the music- fatigue and issues can creep in. The duo has that perfect balance and harmony. There are not that many people clouding the creative process; there are more possibilities when it comes to genre/sound- compared to the solo act- and the whole procedure leads to great quality and originality. One of the biggest issues with music can be the underwhelming lack of diversity. There is so much stale and predictable songs coming through it can be quite depressing when listening. It is hard to be truly original in modern music- given how much music has come before- but there are so many possibilities available then you should be able to produce something different. The best bands, duos and solo artists are those that go the extra mile and subvert expectations. Before I raise a new point, let me introduce my featured act:
Ami Carmine (Vocalist, Songwriter, Producer) Lee Michael (Songwriter, Producer, Beatbox, Bass)
“Comprised of Lee Michael (aka Killa Kela) & former Basement Jaxx vocalist Ami Carmine, their highly distinctive style has been described as ‘a Game of Tones,’ perfectly encapsulating their capacity to blend the ethereal, melodic & beautiful with huge beats and heavy bass.
Let Them & Us take you on the highest journey of musical landscapes, monster drops & vocal hydraulics, blended gracefully with enchanting visuals & theatrics”.
I have been a fan of Them & Us for a while now and am impressed by the mixture of force and passion in their sounds. Sounding unlike any other duo out there you get a unique blend of sounds and styles. With Carmine having worked with Basement Jaxx- and having a sensational and original voice- you get a little bit of ‘90s/’00s Dance/Electronic with something soulful and beautiful. Completed by Michael’s Beatbox skills and production wonder and you have a duo that are among the most solid and promising in the U.K. It is hard to compare the two with anyone else out there: their passion and songwriting quality sets them aside as a serious proposition for the future. Whilst they employ (in their biography) my least favourite word in the English language- is there a musician that does not apply the word ‘journey’ to their music; like fingers down a blackboard to me- there is some truth in things. Those heavy beats and epic soundtracks are perfectly met with acclaimed confidence and stunning vocals. Most acts do not put so much consideration into the compositions and providing such a wonderful sound. Them & Us put so much detail and colour into their compositions it is easy to get lost in the dizzying sounds and huge score. The bond between Carmine and Michael is stunning and the duo seems like a perfect musical match. Electronic music is often overlooked as a venture for the new music. When it comes to new music, Folk, Pop and Rock are favoured: these are the genres critics look to and pull in the biggest bucks. I am seeing quite a few Electronic acts coming through- that blend in Pop, Soul and Rock elements- and the likes of Them & Us are a rarity. They have demonstrated how much energy; urgency and wonder can be elicited when you try something different and fresh. Blending myriad themes and ideas into their ‘Game of Tones’-style projection and you have an act that are going to be around for years to come. Having assessed their previous E.P. (Chapter I: And So It Begins…) I am excited to witness the long-awaited follow-up: the much talked-about gem Chapter II: The Great Escape. I will be focusing on one track- and tying it into the E.P. as a whole- but what they have achieved is a step forward and progression. Their strongest work to date, the E.P. shows consistent quality and some truly amazing moments. Mixing in some narrative segments- Michael’s distinct tones and an appearance from the late Rik Mayall- and their stunning imaginations and you have music that ranks among the very best out there.
Before assessing Like Poison– and a capsule review of their E.P. – it is worth looking back and seeing how the duo has progressed. The debut E.P. – Chapter I: And So It Begins… saw the London duo explode with intention and quality. Across the E.P. there was so much cinematic scope and epic themes. The lyrics tapped into relatable issues- emotional worries and relationship breakdowns- but there was optimism and redemption to be found. Mixing stresses and anxiety with uplifting and happier themes the duo impressed critics and fans with the range and quality throughout. Carmine demonstrated herself to be one of music’s most stunning and diverse singers. Her voice- on the E.P. – could go from intimate and passionate lows to euphoric and delirious highs- often within the space of a single line. Michael’s narratives and production skills perfectly combine and create something sensational. The originality displayed by Them & Us is infectious. Taking Electronic music to new places- blending in Pop and Soul sensibilities- the London two-some were so fresh out of the blocks. On their follow-up there was not much room for improvement. Most new acts have some shaky early moments and a lack of confidence. When it comes to Them & Us what has happened is an increase in confidence and innovation. Chapter II: The Great Escape contains more passion, emotion and wonder than before and marks them as one of music’s most important forces. If you are a fan of older and new Electronic acts- from the likes of Basement Jaxx and Nero- then you will find much to appreciate within Them & Us’s music. Having worked with Jaxx before, Carmine has that authority and knowledge of the genre. She manages to employ some of Basement Jaxx’s finest elements- the seamless blend of genres and command of music- into something new and bespoke. Whilst a lot of contemporary acts have a one-dimensional and uncultured approach to Electronic music; Them & Us are more concerned with epic proportions and sonic diversity. Entrancing and committed to the maximum, you have a duo that is unconcerned with comparisons and fitting into moulds. They do not hang onto the coattails of any other acts and are endlessly assured in their own skin.
When it comes to Chapter II: The Great Escape I have decided to focus on the track Like Poison. The E.P.’s standout track, it is a great representation of the duo and shows how memorable they are. The opening notes and moments see wordless vocals and electronics weave and create anticipation. The beats get heavier and more pressing as our heroine arrives at the microphone. With her voice dedicated and passionate, we get an intriguing opening sentiment: “I see you shine your light far away”. Delivered with attention and ellipsis, the thought builds early images and possibilities. My mind instantly goes to relationship quarters- someone beckoning the heroine from across the waves- and a new bond perhaps. Employing unique sentiments and lyrics (to ascribe love) and the song sets its stall up early on. Juxtaposed thoughts and intentions mix in the vivid landscape of the lyrics. Words of multiple lifetimes and dissatisfaction mutate into elicit kisses and a strange desire. The first verse sees the vocals presented with maximum attention to emotion and pace. Rather than simply sling the lines out like most would- no consideration to changing pace, time and signature- Carmine lets her voice stop and start; glide and stutter to create something head-spinning and unexpected. It not only emphasises the urgency and drama of the song but catches the listener by surprise. I get the impression Like Poison relates to a love that is already burning. Perhaps a boyfriend or sweetheart, you get the sense there has been eventfulness and a backstory between the duo. Propelled by a whirlwind composition and stormy weather, the vocals become more tense and pressing leading into the chorus. When the chorus does arrive we get a declaration of “breathe deep”: a thumping and chorused cry that radiates and spikes through the compositional clamber. With some Pop sensibilities our heroine attests her love is like poison: speaking to her beau, there is that dangerous and toxic potential afoot. From romantic-potential declaration, it seems like the song has cast itself in a different mould. After the chorus completes- and some more tangled electronics and vocals do their work- our heroine comes fully into the spotlight. The next verse sees our heroine state: “all over you is where I belong”. The thorn in the man’s side, there is that essence of vengeance and need to take back some control. Like a poison ivy, it appears there has been some conflict and argument. It would be interesting to know the circumstances behind the song- and what inspired it for sure- yet our heroine remains quite composed and level. Not letting her voice and emotions needlessly wanders, the words and direction remains true and solid. Before that chorus comes swinging back into view our heroine ensures the hero is put in his place. Not having asked Carmine and Michael the origin- and what influenced Like Poison– but there seems to be a particularly personal and relevant backstory. The vocals and composition mix the current-day edge of Electronic and club music; tying it to a vocal that puts me in mind of late-‘90s/early-‘00s Pop regency. Carmine sounds at her peak here and lets her full range come to the forefront. Riding that composition wave, the track really starts to burrow into the mind. It is hard to ignore the energy and persistent of the track: never subsiding or relaxing, there is a constant force that the listener will become intoxicated by. Those hard and primal beats marry with swelling and hypnotic electronics. The chorus is the most astute and fullest representation of these ideals. Pummeling and punching; catchy and entranced, you cannot deny we have one of 2015’s most indelible choruses. Before the song is completed, our heroine comes back into the fray once more. Wanting to swim through the man’s bloodstream and veins- like a poison and toxic energy- part of my mind wondered if there was cynicism or negativity- or if there was some ambiguity. Perhaps doubting my own interpretation, perhaps there is some lingering passion and desire? The closing moments are dedicated to wordless vocals and a compositional swirl. Carmine’s vocals still press and weave yet it is that composition that fires and blasts its way to the finish line.
Being familiar with Them & Us I was expecting something magical from the new E.P. Like Poison is perhaps the duo’s most immediate and dramatic moment to date. Consistently energetic and epic, the song ensures that few listeners will forget it. That chorus is perhaps the most catchy and sing-along they have penned and showcases a real knack for memorability. Confident and bold, the track gets the listener guessing and picking the lyrics apart. Many will be familiar with the themes and sentiments Like Poison expresses. Recrimination and heartache are common themes yet the London duo portrays these ideals in new light and with fresh vigour. Original and ambitious you have a track that is sure to be a staple of club dancefloors and radio playlists. Not an atypical sound of Them & Us- their latest E.P. has several tracks as memorable- and prove how consistent and stunning they are. With Carmine’s voice and writing as scintillating and gripping as always, and you have a lead voice that has few equals. Mixing in everything from ‘90s Pop sounds and modern-day Electronica; here is a vocalist that is always a pleasure to here. Making Like Poison a delirious and additive treat; you cannot ignore the passion put into the performance. Those beats and production values make sure the song is endlessly captivating and emotive. Michael leads from the back and provides the song’s heartbeat and blood-rush. Together the duo elicits a musical storm that demonstrates just how serious and magical they are. One of this year’s most rapturous and enlivened numbers; ensure you do not pass it by.
A duo that is synonymous with grand, epic and sweeping sounds; you cannot deny the importance and talent of Them & Us. When I heard their Chapter I’ E.P., I was amazed by the confidence and consistency it promoted. I had never heard anything like it- and haven’t to this point- and was blown away by the range of sounds and ideas they packed in. Not compromising identity and originality, what the E.P. provided was a glimpse into a stunning act. It would have been hard to follow that E.P. but Them & Us have surpassed their previous effort. The initial confidence and sound is all in place; the duo sound even more scintillating and inventive on Chapter II: The Great Escape. Carmine’s vocals are at their most soulful and beautiful- climbing to ecstatic heights when needed- and Michael’s production is at its very best. His bass and Beatbox elements seem more in the fore- a Beatbox version of the album will be released this week- and the duo seem at their most solid and impassioned. The kinship and understanding between Carmine and Michael results in an E.P. that bursts with life and energy. From the Spoken Word-driven opener The Valentinian– where it’s “hard to play hero looking up at Ground Zero”- and you have an instant smash. Michael lets his voice bustle and hustle for attention. Projecting images of undeserving Gods and mere mortals; strife and modern-day anxieties and woes. Oh My God features a pounding beat and mutating composition that supports a stunning lead vocal. Carmine delivers one of her most urgent and memorable leads to date over a song that looks at broken love and heartache. Speaking to the song’s hero, there is a space and gap left (in our heroine’s life). Dealing with separation and soul-break and you have a song that is among the most relatable and accessible the duo has created. The composition is a primal and pounding beast that perfectly soundtracks the song’s intentions. One Day allows Carmine to let her voice soothe and entrance. The vocals tangle and entwine; they build and multitrack to create something dizzying and head-spinning. A fizzing and explosive club-bound smash, the song pulls in every critical acclaim and expectation. It is a song that makes you want to dance; a rave-up smash that mixes cinematic and hard with something beautiful. Similarly, the song mixes the explosive vocals of Nero with the serene and soothe of Lana Del Rey. One of the E.P.’s highlights, it is a track that could garner a lot of radio play. The bonus track Safe Place melts scuffling and riffled beats in with hurricane electronics and a commanding lead vocal. Our heroine wants to be lead to her safe place and find some sanctuary. The composition is the busiest and most insistent on record and never relents its charge and energy. The entire E.P. showcases how talented and diverse Them & Us are.
I opened the review by assessing duos, range and Electronic music. When you think of those subjects you get a mix of ideas and opinions. I am sure there are a lot of great under-the-radar solo acts and bands- among the mass of rather indeterminate quality- but for my money, it is the duos that are providing the best long-term investment. Seemingly entranced in each other’s company- the friendships and relationships between the leads enforce some stunning music- and you have sounds that are natural and assured. Some duos do lack original bite, yet on the whole it seems, there are some terrifically new and wonderful examples coming through. On December 12th the duo play the Electric Ballroom in London. It will be a chance for the crowds to hear the new E.P. in the flesh and in the live setting. Them & Us provide cinematic and theatric visuals in their shows and put on quite an epic performance. It will be wonderful to see the new songs performed and fleshed-out on stage- and curious to see what visuals and scenery is used- and everyone should go and see the duo. London is producing some of music’s most important and mesmeric duos- and the most wide-ranging too- so it is not surprising Them & Us are being talked about in fond terms. Their previous E.P. was celebrated and heralded by critics for its originality and wonderfully assured songs. Now that Chapter II: The Great Escape has arrived we have another chapter from the London two-some. Even stronger and more electric than their previous outing it suggests a very prosperous charge and future. It will be fascinating to see what 2016 provides- whether they decide to produce an album perhaps? – and plenty of live dates will be forthcoming. On that note, I would love to see the duo travel the world and take their music to international faces. The demand will surely be out there- from Australia to the U.S. – and their sound translates to all countries and audiences. I can guarantee their will be U.S. crowds that would snap them up- having spoken with U.S. bands and promoters- and the same has to be said of Europe and Australia. Whether financial constraints will dictate their movements have yet to be seen but it would be great to see them travel the globe. Before I sign-off this review, it is worth mentioning Electronic music and its potential to cross genre borders and transcend boundaries. At the moment the genre has some exposure in the mainstream yet is synonymous with club music and late-night raves. Listeners and readers will have expectations of D.J. sets and sweaty clubs; Ibiza raves and something quite cliché. What Them & Us show is how versatile and accessible Electronic/Electronica can be. Mixing in Pop and Soul shades into the blend and you have a sound that is hugely memorable and palatable. The duo ensures that emotion and quality goes into every note- rather than the aimless smash-and-grab of their peers- and for that reason they can affect a change in expectations and fan-base. With so few new acts coming out of the blocks with such a degree of potential and originality, we should all ensure Them & Us are supported and promoted. As I revisit Chapter II: The Great Escape, let’s hope the following year sees Carmine and Michael continuing their charge and plight. Perhaps London’s most spectacular and epic duo, ensure you check them out…
AND watch a young duo with many years ahead of them.
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