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Down In June - Covers…Death In June

Death In June under Douglas P. have been masters of the sombre, the morose. Their plaintive acoustic strum style has been ripe for reproduction; a template for an army of budding neo-folkers. Homage usually means a watered-down pastiche but this Swedish group comprising members of Baby Blonde and The Downs go way beyond imitation. Covers… features remarkable and somewhat surprising interpretations of songs by Death In June.

'The Enemy Within' is presented as a sumptuous rendering of flickering electronics and rolling martial percussion with the strong female lead vocal of Erica shrouded in soft female harmonies. The forlorn voice of Erica captures the beautiful melancholy of 'But, What Ends When The Symbols Shatter?' amidst massed voices and processed rhythms. The soft acoustic strum of 'Hollows of Devotion' is performed in a dark Americana style. Its gentle, lilting arrangement is like listening to Bonnie Prince Billy channelling Douglas P. Fantastic! 'Kameradschaft' is reduced to a skeletal framework of jittery electric guitar lines and fragile vocals, with desolate piano notes accompanying the chorus.

Down In June also offer a version of 'The Grass Is Always Browner', featuring an assortment of Death In June lyrical motifs offered up by Douglas P. to the Death In June list to do what they will. In the case of Down In June their arrangement comprises passages of acoustic guitars, icy piano notes, powerful martial drumming swathed in strings.

Not all of Down In June's arrangements work. 'Heaven Street' is buried under a barrage of galloping electro-rhythms and buzzing electronics. The bunched female vocals over mammoth slabs of electronic hum, slight feedback and the slashing sweeps of keening knives that comprise 'Fields of Rape' seems more reminiscent of the sinister atmosphere found on Current 93 versions.

'Little Black Angel' retains the faithful acoustic strum, with only a gender switch in lead vocals and an extended folky end section really straying from the original. Likewise, 'He's Disabled' sticks close to the original melody, alternating between passages of guitar and drums and orchestral strings.

Much more interesting is the arrangement of 'Frost Flowers' with its incessant anvil-bashing rhythm, and vocals lapsing at points to a whisper, eventually assuming a taut martial drumming backdrop. However, the most radical interpretations offered by Down In June are on 'Fall Apart' and 'To Drown A Rose'. And you really need to hear these to believe them. 'Fall Apart' is reduced to repeated heavy riffing with light electronic guitar flourishes, the twinned male and female voices entwining to create a masterstroke of power-pop. It's a wonderful interpretation of a Death In June classic with an end piece accentuated by strings, buzz guitar and feedback. Surprising, huh? Well it's nothing when compared to the punky-pop of 'To Drown A Rose'. It really shouldn't work but Down In June rip the melodic heart from the song and transplant it amongst buzzing guitars and booming bass, offset by electronic treatments and sugary strings.

Closing the album is an unlisted version of 'Rose Clouds of Holocaust' delivered in a wonderful barroom blues style. The heavy piano notes and acoustic guitars take on a Bad Seeds vibe while the vocals, split between Erica and Anders, add a slight touch of country and western to the performance. It's great stuff.

Covers… certainly raises the argument that it would be interesting to hear Douglas P. working with others to reinvent the Death In June back catalogue. As a seasoned Death In June listener I don't think Down In June better any of the originals but they don't fall short with Covers.... Death In June listeners who won't be disappointed with this entertaining diversion. Douglas P. must have appreciated the effort too, as Covers… is released on his NERUS imprint with a sleeve mimicking a Death In June release. Next time you go seek a release from some cut-price Death In June derivative act maybe you shouldn't bother. Down In June capture the essence of Death In June with something far more distinctive and far more original. Death In June fanatics shouldn't miss out on this. For more information go to www.deathinjune.net or www.soleilmoon.com