We have arrived at the last track on what was probably our best effort, our cassette demo “Nowadays”. And it’s a treat, because this song is one of my favorites. From its slow, sweeping sound over the intro through the strong chorus this is a very good showcase of what made Art Fact good.
The lyrics for this song came to be when I was watching the news on TV. I can’t remember exactly what it was that got me thinking about it, but something was so grueling that I wanted to look away, but couldn’t. Nothing to deep here, but a couple of nice phrases came out of this, especially the title, “Please turn my face away” which I still think is great.
Anders had written and produced the whole song on the Roland D-20, and I think we just completed it with a new bass sound from the Yamaha V-50. The breathing sounds in the extremely short “break” was just me and a microphone.
I think what really makes this song for me is the wonderful intro which sets the mood instantly. Once the drums start, we also have a nice little melody from the D-20 going on. The verse is a little boring, but every time we come back to the chorus, the song really opens up and becomes larger and better.
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. :)
It’s hard to remember how some songs were written. On these early tracks it was mostly Måns who came up with the general form, while we others had opinions on details I would say. This sounds like a song that was created in the sequencer rather than on the piano. It has som awkward seams between song parts, especially every time the intro comes back. It sounds like the song grinds to a halt.
Listening back to it now, my favourite part is the chorus (if you can call it that) when the the drum fills answer Måns vocals. I find it rather groovy for being Art Fact! Also Måns bluesy slides on some notes in the verse are nice, and quite typical.
We often had trouble coming up with a middle-8 part, and in many songs we would just do a drum break or something without new chords or melodies. Here we at least came up with some new weird bass notes and something similar to an arpeggio with a filter sweep, but I wonder if the song wouldn’t have been better if we just cut that part out.
This song was clearly all produced using the Yamaha V50, its sound is very distinctive. All synth sounds are very dry. I don’t think the V50 had any onboard effects, and it doesn’t sound like we added any later. Since there is only one vocal, I guess we only used 3 of the 4 tracks available in the Tascam Porta 05. That’s minimal!
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 :)
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.