A song a week #5: As You Say

Art Fact live at Adolf Fredriks musikskola, 1990.
One of Art Fact’s very first live shows, in 1990. Anders behind the D-20 and Måns behind the microphone. Also pictured: totem pole!?

If “In Fact” had been a real album instead of a cassette demo, and if Art Fact had been on a major record label, the label might have pushed for a single before releasing the album. And if that would have been the case, my money is on “As You Say” as their choice for first single.

Why? This song is one of the most accessible and least “synth” songs we ever made. In fact, at one of our live shows we performed “As You Say” with just Anders on guitar and me singing, since “unplugged” was all the rage at the time. This song works well that way, but I think it also works pretty well as a little synthpop ditty.

Preparing for this post, Anders gave me two pointers. He said “One, the handclap should have only been there when there are no vocals” and “Two, the lead synth in the chorus is CRAZY loud in the mix”. I agree with both points, but it’s a little funny how bad we were at hearing these kind of things at the time. The chorus, with my “aaah”, reminds me of some song with Swedish artist Thomas di Leva, and that might have even been the inspiration for that part, since it’s very unlike our regular sound.

Once again, the trusty old Roland D-20 is alone on this track. The drums might be presets, in fact most of the sounds might be presets since this was a quite early production, and we had not really started messing around with the sounds too much yet. I like the sound, except maybe the bridges. They are quite boring. Obviously something more should have happened in the song/sound structure between verses. As it sounds now, all verses are identical, which is quite boring.

Bonus points to ourselves for the nice pizzicato sound in the verses and the cool intro. Those are the only two things that stand out to me now that I listen to it, production-wise.

The lyrics on this track I wrote as one of very few Art Fact songs that were based on a true story. I had in fact received a letter much like the one mentioned in the song, and my only possible response was to accept the letter and go on with my life. Very typical teen stuff though, and the lyrics are no masterpiece.

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A song a week #4: I’m Jealous

In-Fact

This week we’re taking the time machine back to 1989, and the quite interesting track “I’m Jealous” off of our “In Fact” cassette. This song is more or less a forgotten piece, made almost entirely around a single sound from the Roland D-20, which was the only piece of equipment used on this track.

The sound heard in the intro and throughout the song is probably a pitched-down percussion of some sort – this was during the time we were experimenting a lot with the sounds from the D-20 and trying to make it do things it really was not designed to do. The result was sometimes quite good – as in this case I think, where it does sound like something else.

Typically, for this time in Art Fact history, we are using only drums and one more sound for the verses. This left a lot of of space for my vocals, which were recorded through the Alesis Microverb with quite a long reverb. So 80’s, indeed.

There is not much else going on here – either lyrically or melodically. It sounds very dated and old in my ears today, and the only notable idea was the use of whispering in the repeating “I’m jealous” of the chorus. Also, that’s quite a scream at the end! I used to be very afraid of hurting my tender choir voice, so I’m surprised that I would scream like that. It’s all there though, raw as it was on the tape, just as raw today.

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A song a week #3: Rain In The South

This is both a personal favorite, and one of our most played songs. In 2011 it was included on the Hidden Tapes CD, which was really flattering for us to be part of.

The songs from this period were mostly recorded at Olle’s house, where we used to meet after school to drink soda, play synths and computer games (on Olle’s Amiga). This song probably originated with the arpeggio, generated in the Yamaha V50. The water drops in the intro was recorded in Olle’s bathroom, straight to tape. Must have been tricky getting enough signal :)

Måns running through Stockholm city.
Måns running through the streets of Stockholm ca 1989.

Once again I’m amazed how minimalistic our productions were, compared to how music sounds today. This sparseness leaves a lot of space for Måns’s vocals and the lyrics, which is a bit more epic than usual. I have a faint memory that Måns wrote the verses, but couldn’t come up with anything to sing in the choruses, and that I suggested the “rain in the south”-part which has little to do with the rest of the song but has a nice ring to it (if I may say so myself).

When preparing this track for the Hidden Taped CD, we recorded our old cassettes into Logic and used the Denoiser noise reduction plugin to get rid of the hissing and humming. The difference was quite remarkable as you can compare in Måns’ blog post on the process.

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A song a week #2: Payday

Payday is the second track in our weekly series “A song a week”. Payday was the second track on our first cassette “In Fact”, and was recorded some time in the late 80’s, most likely in 1989.

Payday is made using only the Yamaha V50  and its internal sequencer. Well, almost. The “intro” being a number of coins dropped on a mirror, recorded straight to tape (we didn’t own a sampler) is the only sound not originating from Yamaha’s wondrous work station.

v50_2

This was a very different machine than the Roland D-20 we had used up until we got the V50. Using FM synthesis and sporting a step programmer in the sequencer we made good use of these features. Payday is using what is probably a number of presets, especially the bells in the chorus and the drums. What makes the sound in this song for me is the square lead playing the hook in the chorus. Together with those bells, it really gives of that great 80’s vibe.

Of course I am partial, but I think the vocals on this track sound great! They’ve got that “blues-y” feeling that made Art Fact special. I really don’t know where my inspiration came from to sing that way – none of my then-heroes sang that way, and it’s certainly not a very “synth” vocal sound, which I’m grateful for now, since it sounds better than most contemporary vocals.

The verse is nothing but drums, bass and vocals. This is typical for the naive productions we made back then, and the thing is that we simply didn’t know any better. We didn’t know what to put there, so we thought we were done. Today it sounds extremely minimalist, but it’s purely by accident.

For some reason, we decided that adding a drum fill after the title word “Payday” is sung in the song would be cool. What is not cool though, is the poorness of said drum fill. Listen for it. :)

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A song a week #1: Whom Are You Dancing For?

Starting today, we will try to say a few words about every Art Fact song. Starting with Whom Are You Dancing For?, this was far from the first song we ever wrote or recorded, but it’s the first track we released (if you can call hand-copied cassettes “releases”). Listening to it now it sounds like one of those tracks that started by just tinkering with some drums and bass sounds. There is quite a lot of borrowed stuff in this song, from the typical octave bass (from Depeche Mode´s Photographic) to some lyrics like “life in itself” and “they can’t get no / satisfaction”. On this particular track I remember that Måns showed the lyrics to his English teacher, who wanted him to change the title to the more grammatically correct “WHO are you dancing for?”. Claiming his artistic freedom, Måns refused to change it.

The track is done using just the Roland D-20. It was probably completed at Olle’s house. The drums are quite busy, but at this point we didn’t use any hihat since that sounded too much like a rock drummer. I remember that we recorded the harp-like arpeggio by hand, slowing the tempo down quite a bit. We also automated the stereo panning a lot, which still sounds pretty good I think.

Overall it’s a very minimalist track. In the chorus it’s just drums, bass and vocals! But at the time I think we didn’t know what else to put in there.

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