The Folk Ups

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Live review from Sub Terra #4:

1. Little Talks (Of Monsters And Men cover)
2. My Darling Girl
3. Red In The Sky
4. Ho Hey (Lumineers cover)
5. Tempest
6. Snake Charmer
7. How Long

 

Ryan and Jasmine return to the Underground after playing the KEF Stage at Clockenflap last year. They get Sub Terra #4 started with a cover of Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men. They don’t do anything too radical with it, staying close to the original all the while bringing their own minimalist style – driven by Shelby the kick drum and uncomplicated, rhythmic acoustic guitar. Ryan’s deep baritone works nicely with Jasmine’s sweet, wispy vocals.

There’s a good helping of Nick Cave about Ryan’s voice on Red In The Sky, a song all about murder, graveyards and getting stabbed. I look around the room and, despite the theme, realise it’s near impossible not to smile while watching these guys. Most of the faces are wearing a nice warm grin; a testament to the good vibes this duo bring.

With their cover of the Lumineers song Ho Hey, they give it The Folk Ups treatment and even for a moment make me wonder if the original actually has a female vocal on it. Such is the conviction with which they deliver. Once again, not changing it too much at all, the two guitars work nice and simply together. Their laid back stage presence really comes through here, it’s like they’re equally at home on stage or with sand under their feet.

There’s a lovely hummed middle eighth on Tempest, which is one of the songs from their new EP. A lovely folk song which pushes the normal structures of songwriting with the multiple layers it has going on. I also all of a sudden feel like we should be sitting on hay bales.

The whole duet style folk flavour they have going on is a real throw back. They seem to have a very clear vision for their music and approach to their songs. What’s scary is how young they both are. With the more gigs they play and songs they write, we may not get such an intimate setting next time. We’ll need to arrive early to get a good place in the queue. While it’s free, I better also download that EP when I get home.
– Simon Donald Jones

筆者錯過咗民謠二人組合The Folk-Ups喺Clockenflap嘅表演,Sub Terra 4之前根本唔清楚佢地係乜野來頭,只見佢地台上放置咗唔同嘅樂器,包括banjo、Bob Dylan式戴喺頸上嘅口琴、及用行李箱自製出黎嘅鼓。今時今日,可能因為Taylor Swift等歌手嘅緣故,所謂民謠風格已經過份接近大眾流行樂,失去咗自身有少少粗糙嘅特色。但係七首歌之後,我對The Folk-Ups完全係刮目相看,因為佢地將好多新晉樂隊會做嘅野都完完全全地傾倒。

The Folk-Ups喺表演前十分之低調,但係一開聲,你會發覺只不過十五歲嘅Ryan,係一名難得一遇嘅男低音。民謠巨星Johnny Cash細個嘅時候,佢嘅老師發覺佢聲線太過獨特,唔肯收佢做學生,只可以祝福佢以後能闖出一番事業。當晚,Ryan就係俾咗我一樣嘅感覺。再加上女主音Jasmine亦係一名聲線較低嘅歌手,兩人主攻低音,唱起黎有種和暖、成熟嘅味道。

最令筆者拍爛手掌嘅,無疑係佢地嘅編曲技巧。佢地嘅能力已經遠遠拋離verse-chorus-verse或者二人合唱呢種標準嘅玩法,反而會完全就歌曲嘅氣氛、色調而決定下一步,唔會介意扼殺一首正常流行歌曲應有嘅野。就「Red in the Sky」一首歌而言,觀眾唔會聽到高潮,只會聽到低潮。總括黎講,筆者覺得The Folk-Ups嘅風格可以跟當年美國創作歌手Tim/Jeff Buckley兩父子相比,每一首歌就此成為一個故事或者一場對話。
– Elson Tong


Live review from Mellow Yellow

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1. Red In The Sky
2. TEMPEST
3. Kansas City (cover)
4. Footprints
5. How Long
6. Flowers in Your Hair (Lumineers cover)

The Folk Ups have come a long way since Lion Rock Festival. With greater stage presence and the addition of a suitcase-drum named Shelby, the young duo has elevated themselves beyond battle of the bands and into professional gigs. At their first Underground appearance, Ryan and Jasmine set the tone perfectly for a folk night. Their neat set of original and covered folk songs invited people in, as if to gather around a big campfire.

They selected a dark song to open the show – the very Johnny Cash Red in the Sky: a melancholic slice of Americana that combined soulful guitar with call-and-response lyrics. The vocal dynamics between the pair evoke influences from across the spectrum – Ryan’s smooth baritone no doubt recalls the man in black, yet paired with Jasmine’s sultry, Nora Jones-esque voice, the two combine to produce a downbeat harmony more akin to the minimalism of The xx’s Jamie and Romy.

Meanwhile, The Folk Ups’ music draws from both contemporary and classic folk. Tempest had a more modern feel, opening with guitar knocking and tambourine taps for an Eels vibe, before a catchy wa-ohh chorus where the singers’ voices took on the southern English tones of Laura Marling and Noah and the Whale’s Charlie Fink – with every ounce of the same chemistry.

It was back to the States for New Basement Tapes’ cover, Kansas City. Ryan picked up his banjo, and the atmosphere immediately shifted towards the southern gothic frisson of Blanche’s Tracee Mae and Dan Miller. The band’s heavily chilled demeanour no doubt stems from living in the peaceful Mui Wo, where being far from the city gives them space to channel emotions and see ideas blossom. Footprints, written on the beach featured two strummed guitars and somewhat clichéd lines about “footprints in the sand fading away” and waves washing in.

I drink ’til I drop and I do drink a lot,” Ryan sung while wearing a harmonica rack during How Long, which featured the particularly evocative lyrics, “you’re in my blood, you’re the venomous bite”. Unfortunately, with at least four instruments being played simultaneously, the tempo began to unravel and the two seemed to have trouble keeping both guitars in sync.

It’s rare for Chris B to invite an opening band to perform an encore, but the audience wanted to hold on to this charming pair for a little longer. They chose to cover US indie group The Lumineers’ bittersweet Flowers in Your Hair and brought the house down, leaving the audience to ponder over the line, “It takes a man to live, it takes a woman to make him compromise.

The more musically and vocally self-assured of the two, Jasmine held the show together. Using her toe for tambourine clatters and heel for Shelby thumps, she gave a travelling troubadour power to the folksters’ show. But it’s the magnetism between the two – as well as the creative songs and approach to stagecraft – that make The Folk Ups a wholly unforgettable and promising new act.
– El Jay

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