Rational Youth’s tour of the Nordics starts this week. To mark the occasion, and the release of the box set from Vinyl on Demand, we’ve put together this quiz. Take the challenge!
The process of manufacturing vinyl records affords a final opportunity for creativity to artists, labels and engineers, before the final product is packaged and distributed. When the master is cut, prior to stamping of the records, it is common for identification marks to be added, such as catalogue numbers, references to the mastering house and notes about the tape being used by the engineer. A practice also emerged of engineers adding their names, nicknames or logos, and inscribing messages of their own, such as references to lyrics or notes meaningful to themselves or to the artists. Scrawled into the inner run-off grooves of the record, nearest the label, such matrix etchings are important for record collectors to help identify different editions, but they also provide a source of coded communication to fans keen to discover every detail about their favourite recordings. Holding records at an angle to the light reveals the messages, which are otherwise overlooked by the listener.
One of the best-known practitioners of the subtle art of matrix etching was the engineer, George Peckham, who signed off many masters as “Porky” or added his mark, “A Porky Prime Cut”. The hand-drawn face of a pig can also be traced back to Peckham. Here’s an example of Peckham’s sign-off, taken from Fad Gadget’s “Fireside Favourites/Insecticide” single:
Peckham’s sense of humour is evident, as next to his motto he has drawn a picture of a fly buzzing (in reference to the lyrics of “Insecticide”):
Sometimes, the messages look like they could be personal statements about the engineer’s own musical tastes. Take, for example, this message cut into the A-side of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” (BONG18):
Other times, they look like paying tribute to the songs being worked with. This is the etching on New Order’s first single, “Ceremony”:
We’ll post some more of these shortly, but feel free to send your favourites to email@example.com.
Sista mannen på jorden (EN: The Last Man on Earth) is Eddie Bengtsson’s highly regarded solo project. The Swedish poptronica legend is best known as one half of Page, but in his SMPJ guise Bengtsson has released five acclaimed albums of melodic electronic music inspired by science fiction and themes of love and longing. SMPJ is on a mini-tour this Spring, playing dates in Sweden alongside Canadian electro-pioneers Rational Youth, Psyche and others. To coincide with the shows, a new SMPJ single is being released, and it’s a sublime slice of synthesized pop.
The A-side is “Stadens alla ljus” (EN: “All the City Lights”), a pulsating trip to the dancefloor, swept along by dream-like pads and bubbling filters. It’s one of Bengtsson’s finest efforts, and certain to be a favourite at the upcoming shows. On the B-side, “Vem gör det då” (EN: “Who Does It Then”) is an up-tempo track in classic SMPJ style.
CWNL spoke with Bengtsson about the new release:
When does the new single come out?
Its going to be out on the 30th of April, just in time for the joint SMPJ, Rational Youth, I-Satellite, Psyche and Robert Marlow tour in Sweden.
What is the story behind the cover art?
It’s actually a tribute to two of my favourite album covers (and my favourite albums, music-wise), “Magic Fly” by Space and “Oxygene” by Jean-Michel Jarre. If you take those two covers and blend them with a touch of SMPJ, that’s what you get.
When you write a song, do you decide that it is for SMPJ or Page beforehand? Is there a SMPJ mood that is different from that associated with Page?
That’s exactly what I try to do. With Page, I try to get in a “ordinary” pop mood, and with SMPJ I try to add a more sentimental and moddish flavour – and, of course, a touch of a science fiction theme (not always, though). A slightly fun thing is that the A-side of the new single, “Stadens alla ljus” (All the City Lights), was initially a song that I wrote for S.P.O.C.K last winter. They heard it and didn’t like it – a fact that I’m very glad for now, since it is one of the best SMPJ songs I’ve ever done (in my opinion).
SMPJ is clearly inspired by science fiction. Which books and films are particularly important to you?
A science fiction book that really got me hooked on sci-fi, long ago, was 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then there is my all-time favourite sci-fi TV-series, Space: 1999.
You have live shows coming up with Rational Youth, Psyche, I Satellite and Robert Marlow. You’ve remixed both I Satellite and Robert Marlow previously. How was that experience?
I feel very satisfied about how they came out, especially the mix I made Robert Marlow. I wanted to give that song with Marlow a glamtronica workover, and I think I succeeded very well – one of my favourite remixes/redux versions from those I have done.
We hear that Rational Youth are working on a version of Luft by SMPJ. How do you feel about other artists covering your songs?
I’m honoured that other artists are making covers of my songs, and its going to be very interesting to hear Rational Youth’s version. I’m sure they are going to do it very well.
We saw that Page was well received in London. Is there a chance of SMPJ playing outside of Sweden, as well?
I really do hope so! Playing in London was a wonderful thing to do. And I hope that the audience there wants to see and hear SMPJ, too, in the near future.
“Stadens alla ljus” is released on 30 April 2014 by Electronic Sound Sweden Records.
Sista mannen på jorden are appearing at the following shows:
Malmö, Sweden – 30 April 2014 (Babel)
Göteborg, Sweden – 2 May 2014 (Musikens hus)
Stockholm, Sweden – 3 May 2014 (Nalen)