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Kalandra (Norway) – With You (unplugged track from debut album)

Harry Nilsen and Mariah Carey (oh no) were ‘Without You’ but Norwegian alt-poppers Kalandra are very much ‘With You’ (or at least with each other) in this unplugged/acoustic version of a song taken from their debut album ‘The Line’ which was released last year.

It’s the second track from that album that they’ve given this treatment to, the first being ‘Ensom (Unplugged)’ in June.

‘With You’ is a song about “choosing to stand by one another when going through life’s hardships together. How, despite feeling wanderlust and restlessness on the path you share, there is no one else you’d rather have by your side when journeying through life”.

Written around five years ago, it was the last song they included on the debut album, referring to it as “the car-commercial song”, as a way of ironically distancing themselves from its optimism.

Ok, I get the impression from that the band is known for its pessimism? I decided to check out the original album track first. Hand on heart it’s hard to tell the difference between them, at least for the first three-quarters of the song. I’d been expecting the album version to be Death Metal (and in my defence there are quite a few metal bands on the PR company’s roster).

But it isn’t at all; in fact it’s a gentle little, mainly acoustic and sweetly voiced, excursion, the sort of thing Sandy Denny might have done, until the last minute or so when the tempo quickens and a lot of instrumentation, some of it electronic perhaps, intervenes for a while.

And that final section is the main difference on this later version when the instrumentation is restricted to melancholic strings (yes, on an optimistic song), courtesy of Claudia Stepien, Sophia Cabo and Ingjerd Forbord.

I’ve listened to both versions three times and still can’t decide which one I prefer. They are both damn good and in Katrine Stenbekk they have a singer who could melt your heart at 100 paces.

Kalandra describe themselves as “weaving ethereal melodies into raw and eerie musical landscapes”. Without checking out more of their portfolio I couldn’t comment generically but I don’t think any of ‘ethereal’, ‘raw’ and ‘eerie’ does them justice here. It’s a soothing, relaxing and beautifully crafted song, the sort you want to listen to when your team has just lost 7-0 at home, again.

And the simple lyrics are ridiculously effective:

Nowhere I’d rather be/No one I’d rather be with/ my restless heart remains with you/with you.”

The video, shot at Safe as Milk Gastropub, Oslo is by Thomas Bottolfsen.

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