Yes, it’s time once again to pick up the “song a week” theme here at artfact.se. Before the summer, we ended with a track in the middle of our cassette “Nowadays” and so we go back to 1991 and continue where we left off.
“The Initial Merge” is a very nice “in between”-track, that if I remember correctly was made by Jonas and Anders. Over time, it has become one of my favorites from Art Fact, as it is timeless. We used it as a link track between two songs with very different style and tempo, and as such it works great.
It is an instrumental track, using all Roland D-20 (I think), and has a very slow, suggestive tone which always makes me think of the Depeche Mode track “Oberkorn: It’s a small town”. I don’t think that was the idea at the time though.
It’s hard even for us to believe, but Art Fact will indeed perform live for the first time in about 20 years at the “Smör, Synthpop & Kärlek #2” mini-festival at Nalen in Stockholm on December 14, 2013.
Here is maybe the first track on “Nowadays” which is hinting to what is to become of Art Fact later. This song should be great, in fact it has a wonderful intro, hook, bridge and chorus. But there is something in the sound and most of all, my own vocals, which make it slightly stale and boring. I’m not sure what happened, but for me some of the energy we had is lost in this track.
But let’s talk about the song now. Anders made this track pretty much on his own on his trusty Roland D-20. The sound in the intro is also D-20, even though it sounds nothing like it. By this time, we were getting pretty good at creaming everything possible out of that machine, and this track is probably the best example of what wizardry we could make the very limited workstation perform. Apart from the very stale snare drum, most of the sounds are great and sound more analogue than should really be possible with the D-20.
We’ve got backing vocals on this track as well! Olle was invited to the microphone to enhance some of the lines, something we really should have done more often! The lyrics are not great, and I’m not sure we even had any idea behind them. It probably just sounded cool.
As a pop song, this track has great composition and balance between the verse and the chorus. I have to say that between Anders and me, we actually had some good songwriting going on. We should have just kept our youthful ignorance and never tried to sound “heavier” or “tougher”.
After last week’s synth pop glory, we will take the opportunity to show that “Nowadays” certainly had its darker moments. The last track of side A on the cassette was “Stains”, a song that was really about a homeless man in Stockholm we used to run into a lot. He was very dirty, very confused and probably really should have been in some sort of mental institution. He would say the most hilarious things when we were talking to him, but even though we had fun at his expense a lot, we still felt bad for the man, and was wondering where he was living. The story he was giving people was that he was living in a hollow oak, and so on the cover of “Nowadays” he is thanked as “Thanks to Emil in the oaktree”. The lyrics go through meeting this man, and asking questions about society’s responsibility for him. Pretty heavy stuff for our regular teenage angst fare, but there it is.
Now to the song! This time around we’re using our trusty Roland D-20 hooked up to our Yamaha V50 for a combined sound that is much wider than when using just the one machine. The awesome bass line that enters in the second verse is the V50, but the iconic metal clang loop is a pitched-down effect on the D20.
It’s got a nice vocal melody, and a pretty interesting more or less random melody being played in the background, probably improvised and recorded in one go into the sequencer. For me, the great thing about this song is the very last part of the verse, or if it really is the bridge, where we hit that major chord, leading nicely into the chorus. The words in the chorus are stupid and all just thought of to rhyme with each other:
Here we go, this is track four from “Nowadays” and it’s a special one. This is the one and only Art Fact-track where Måns is not the lead singer. This song was written and performed by Olle, and we thought it was great to leave his vocals on there after he had recorded them to show me how to do it. :)
It’s also a great song I think, with some cool samples! We were experimenting with a sampler that Olle bought for his Amiga computer, but we didn’t have MIDI capabilities for it, so all the samples had to be triggered live-to-tape with the mouse. All the samples are from the 80’s epic bad movie “Mac and me“, simply because it happened to be on the TV when we were recording. During the chorus we used some servo motor sample sounds from the movie, and I think it works really well with the song.
Other than those samples, the song is 100% Roland D-20. The very typical gated kick makes another performance, and the bass line is also one of those digital sounds attempting to emulate analogue synthesizers. It sounds weird today, and probably would have been much better with an actual synthesizer instead, but we had to work with what we had at hand.
Here we go, right after the somewhat weird intro to “Nowadays”, we are smack in the middle of classic synth-pop with the second track of this cassette, “I’m here”.
This is 100% Yamaha V50, but you can clearly hear that we’ve picked up some production tricks at the time, because the quite brutal arpeggio sound is lower during the singing and higher in the bridges. This must have been done using the V50’s sequencer, which feels impressive today.
The V50 also had quite a few nice built-in effects, and the “gate” effect was so heavily used on this track that it feels like the whole song was put through a dampening filter. You can hear another weird slap-back delay effect on the drums, still using only the V50. Drums was really the achilles heel of the V50, and I really think that’s why we started to think about using the Roland D-20 for drums while still wanting to use the bass sounds from V50. This led to having to learn how to hook our two machines up to each other using MIDI, which we’ll hear in later tracks on Nowadays.
The song then. It’s not bad, in fact it’s a nice synth-pop tune with some dramatic twists, like the weird “outro”. We were beginning to figure out different ways to sound “heavier” having begun shifting our musical influences from Erasure to Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb. This would have adverse effects on our song making later on, but at this time it simply meant we were very concerned with trying not to sound too childish.
The singing is OK, but I’m wondering if it was done in a rush. For some reason I can’t picture where we recorded this track, which I ususally am able to do. Especially on the high notes I think it sounds like I’m pushing it a little hard without hitting them. Of course I could just have been singing while running a cold. :)
We’ve made it almost all the way through “In Fact” and the very last track of this cassette is a nice one. I think it gives quite a good insight into what is to come in the future, since it’s got more of a dark mood and classic synth-pop vibe to it.
It begins with the intro, which uses a lot of percussion sounds to create a moody landscape leading up to the timpani drumbeat.
This song is all Roland D-20, with some creative drum parts where we used the rim sound for once. But what’s really interesting here is the very sweet melody going in the bridge. We were always trying to combine nice melodies with a dark atmosphere and mood, and in this track it really paid off, I think.
The vocals sounds sort of forced, and they were recorded using a drum microphone, so there isn’t a lot of full vocal sound there to work with in the first place. There is nothing wrong with my singing, but the sound is very sharp and piercing.
After using our synthesizers separately all through “In Fact”, we were now learning how to hook them up to each other using MIDI. This would give us a whole new range of sounds to combine for our next cassette, “Nowadays” which had a lot of truly great tracks on it.
With this, we leave “In Fact” in the (quite literal) dust and move forward into the 1990’s! Next week, we start with a song that leads on “Nowadays” but is actually from the “In Fact” era. More on that soon!
Oh, yes! I’m so happy that it was my (Måns) turn to write this week. This is definitely one of the very best songs from In Fact, and I have very vivid memories of recording this song too.
“Tell me why” stands out as a great little pop ditty with, for Art Fact, very well-defined song structure. There is nothing hidden in this track, nothing left to the imagination or that could have been done that wasn’t done. Simplicity, pure pop. I love it! Of course, this is pretty far from synth-pop and I’d say that our influences from Erasure are very clear in this track.
This track is made with Roland D-20, although I am fairly certain that there was an earlier version made on the PSR-70, sadly gone today because it was probably never recorded. There are a couple of cute quantizing errors very typical for how we worked with the D-20, because we never knew if we should quantize in 1/16 or 1/32. Sometimes we did it wrong and there are a couple of off beats in this one.
The bass line is classic octaves, in a bouncy, sort-of slap bass sound. A weird choice maybe, but it works. One thing that is very different here is that we allowed Anders to add a GUITAR to the chorus. Again, I blame Erasure since Vince Clarke was dabbling with guitars at this time as well, at least in the “Sometimes” video, which we loved. I know that Anders doesn’t like that guitar sound any more, but I think it really works and blends in nicely.
Vocals then. The vocals are, in my own opinion, probably the best ones I recorded on In Fact. I did the recording in my bedroom in my parents’ home at Västmannagatan, and I remember that it was fairly late so my little sisters were sleeping and I sang so loud that my step-mother came to tell me to quit. Anyway, I got it done and today I still really like how they turned out. Blues-y, and really “on”. You need to remember that I was only 16 years old or so, which is the main reason I’m impressed today.
The lyrics are nothing special really. It’s all about rejection and not understanding why, in a teenage angst sort of way. The up-beat music doesn’t really match the lyrics.
This is quite akward. This song is really, really hard to listen to, since it really shows how young and silly we were. This is almost a novelty song, with stupid jokes and laughs throughout. If you can take listening to it, some of the details below might be interesting.
The bass line is the “fantastic” Yamaha PSR-70, the first machine Anders owned (I think) and I would borrow it, use the built-in very simple sequencer to write songs, and sometimes it would be impossible to find replacement sounds when we actually wanted to record the song. This bass sound is actually quite cool, I like it. The “strings” are also PSR-70 I believe! Other than PSR-70, the drums and sound effects are Roland D-20, and the bridge lead is most likely from Olle’s Casio CZ-101.
The lyrics are stupid. Something about wanting to die, but clearly not very serious, regardless of the message. The only part of the lyrics I like now are in the intro: “I searched for hours, days and for weeks. I know now my search was in vain.”
The vocals are good, as usual on In Fact. It’s easy to hear now why listeners were impressed by my vocals, as I had a very clear and distinct voice, being schooled in choir and opera. I think all of the backing vocals on this track are improvised during the recording, which is quite impressive, at least in the intro where it works quite well, even with the weird screaming at the very top.
OK, let’s stop this now. Next week we’ve got one of the best tracks from In Fact (at least in my opinion) so I’m looking forward to reading Anders’ writeup of that instead of this nonsense song.
After that night we put on our emotional shields.
Now, when some time has passed, I think it’s time we break those seals.
Let’s relax our grip, let’s face our problems of today
Let’s admit that it’s nice to slip away somtimes.
Oh, there’s a rain in the south. I think I’m gonna go there.
Oh, there’s a rain in the south. I think I’m gonna go there.
Held by no sense of time we searched for another way
You are maybe forced to play a part in this silly play
Tell me anyway if something will happen backstage
Maybe if nobody knew you’d be able to make me to stay.
But there’s a rain in the south. I think I’m gonna go there.
Oh, there’s a rain in the south. I think I’m gonna go there.
Oh there’s a rain in the south. I think we’re gonna go there.
There’s a rain in the south. I think we’re gonna go there.