While poptronica trailblazers PAGE have maintained an international cult following over the decades, apart from the occasional cover version like DEPECHE MODE’s Dreaming Of Me’ and OMD’s ‘Electricity’, or during live performance with ‘Lyssnade På Min Radio’ (Listening To My Radio)’ done in English for their first London show, they have always sung in Swedish.
But taking a leaf from the imperial phase of KRAFTWERK where songs were released in a variety of languages, the duo of Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko present a new EP with variations of their music in German and English.
Leading the ‘Bludest Du?’ EP is ‘Blöder Du?’ translated into German. Originally from the most recent album ’Fakta For Alla’, it means ‘Are You Bleeding?’ and takes things in a darker direction than PAGE have ever been in their long career. The use of German enhances the foreboding nature of the stark brooding electronic backdrop.
The effective video made by Mark Kjahart Pettersson gets around lockdown restrictions by having Bengtsson and Schiptjenko appear grainily on multiple vintage TV screens while a mysterious figure reveals an inner turmoil through implied physical disfigurement.
Also featuring on the EP are two tracks in English, ‘Start’ and ‘Tracks’, the Gary Numan song. ‘Start’ wears its Numanoid cosplay on its sleeve and pays tribute to a time before ‘Dance’ ever happened, with buzzing Minimoog basslines and swirling Polymoog strings coming over like a mash-up of ‘Metal’ and ‘Tracks’.
And speaking of the side two opener from ‘The Pleasure Principle’, PAGE’s 2017 album from ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’ had already included a faithful version of ‘Tracks’ in Swedish as ‘Spår’, so the artistic fixation with the man who once called himself Valerian more or less comes full circle.
The fourth track on the ‘Blutest Du?’ EP is the mighty instrumental ‘Saint Anastase’; from the previous ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ EP, it channels a Vox ‘N’ Foxx cocktail with hints of ‘All Stood Still’, ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ and ‘Swimmer’ over an incessant neo-motorik beat.
Those that may have been cautious about investigating PAGE in the past due to the language barrier will find the ‘Blutest Du?’ EP an ideal introduction. With electronic hooks and melodies in abundance that recall the best in Synth Britannia, there is now no reason not to.
Of late, Swedish poptronica duo PAGE have well and truly fallen under the spell of the imperial Synth Britannia era.
The releases in the last few years from Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko like ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’, ‘Start’, ‘Fakta För Alla’ and ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ have clearly been influenced by imperial phase ULTRAVOX, TUBEWAY ARMY, VISAGE and DRAMATIS.
‘Puls’ (‘Pulse’), an energetic track from their most recent album ‘Fakta För Alla’, gets a period makeover in a new video clip complete with waveforms. Recorded at Gothenburg’s Sticky Fingers last fall, it is made up of out-takes from a forthcoming live DVD naturally entitled ‘Fakta För Alla Göteborg’.
The track itself drops in a higher glam quotient with a stomping rhythm line and saw waves lined up in catchy phrases. Strings and soaring synths point to Billy Currie as a source of inspiration, but there is nothing derivative about the stylings.
With PAGE very much in the Moog, the ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ EP issued in June included a cover of Gary Numan’s ‘Tracks’, a Swedish version of which was on ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’. But the opening instrumental ‘Saint Anastase’ was fully in the vein of Vox ‘N’ Foxx.
Having adapted the ULTRAVOX B-side ‘Alles Klar’ as ‘Allt Är Klart’ previously with his SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN project in 2007, these electronic pioneers are very much in the musical DNA of Eddie Bengtsson and this re-exploration of his roots has enabled him to produce some of the best work of his career which began with PAGE’s debut single ‘Dansande Man’ in 1983.
PAGE, the Swedish poptronica trailblazers are back with a new EP entitled ‘Under Mitt Skinn’.
Releasing their first single in 1983, the duo of Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko is seen as the classic incarnation despite the line-up variations over the decades. In between her stints, Marina Schiptjenko joined Alexander Bard from ARMY OF LOVERS in VACUUM and then BWO, while front man Eddie Bengtsson had his ongoing solo mission SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN but initially found fame with S.P.O.C.K.
Often been considered as Sweden’s answer to Vince Clarke, in 2017 Eddie Bengtsson publically expressed his despair at the state of new electronic music and how it was not enough to have just a single good song on a full length album. So for his end of year listing, he celebrated his influences which he considered to have stood the test time such as TUBEWAY ARMY, ULTRAVOX, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and the lesser known Anglo-Irish combo CUDDLY TOYS.
PAGE’s album from that year ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’ featured a musically faithful cover of Gary Numan’s ‘Tracks’ in Swedish as ‘Spår’; it planted the seed for a more Numanesque sound but it was 2018’s ‘Start’ EP and the 2019 album ‘Fakta För Alla’ that saw PAGE totally get in the Moog.
‘Under Mitt Skinn’ includes ‘Tracks’ but also five new songs, three remixes and a cover curio. The opening ‘Saint Anastase’ acts as a mighty instrumental prelude in the vein of Vox ‘N’ Foxx, with hints of ‘All Stood Still’, ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ and ‘Swimmer’ driven by a frantic neo-motorik beat. Having adapted ‘Alles Klar’ as ‘Allt Är Klart’ with SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN in 2007, Bengtsson does another fine tribute in acknowledgement of Synth Britannia.
‘Under Mitt Skinn’ and ‘Hoppet’ both continue the Numan fixation which PAGE have explored on ‘Fakta För Alla’ and ‘Start’ with propulsive monosynth riffs, immersive vox humana and precise uptempo structures. But ‘Ta Det Som En Man’ plays with the ivory motif of ‘The Damned Don’t Cry’ and amalgamates it with ‘Fade To Grey’ for the ultimate VISAGE homage på Svenska.
Held together by a metronomic Compurhythm backbone, the clean simplicity of ‘Panik’ is its key, with some simple piano derived melodies and uncluttered strings, but alien distortion counterpoints to add tension. Less derivative and more like classic PAGE, this is the best of the new songs on this collection, although a sneaky ULTRAVOX warble odyssey at the end just cannot be resisted.
Eddie Bengtsson has often remarked that ‘Fakta För Alla’ is possibly the best work of his career and two of its tracks are reworked by others. ‘Blöder Du’ is percussively remixed by Svein Welde but remains moody and doesn’t lose its mystery. Meanwhile the Hacienda redux by Pierre of ‘Ljuden I Ditt Rum’ adds a baggy wah-wah feel which parties like it’s 1991 and even threatens to turn into the final section of THE STONE ROSES ‘I Am The Resurrection’!
The Side Order family redux of ‘Som Ett Skal’ from ‘Hemma’ however could have done without its irritating glitch stutters and this effect spoils an otherwise acceptable remix of what is now considered modern day PAGE’s signature song.
As a novelty bonus, Swedish industrial band INDEPENDENT STATE featuring John Westlund and Den Där Killen offer a synth punk cover version of ‘Lägger Av’ from ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’; it could be mistaken for a Nordic Plastic Bertrand and that more or less sums up its playfully enjoyable nature.
‘Under Mitt Skinn’ will more than satisfy PAGE fans and enthusiasts of elektronisk pop who have enjoyed the run of enjoyable releases since ‘Nu’ in 2010. But while the dynamic vintage overtures of Billy Currie, Gary Numan and John Foxx are still very much omnipresent on this EP, there are signs through the five new tracks that this influence may be steadily evolving into another phase for Marina Schiptjenko and Eddie Bengtsson.
With the release of ‘Fakta För Alla’, PAGE have not only unveiled a candidate for the best album of 2019; they have sculpted some of the most mature and sophisticated sounds of their career.
It is nearly forty years since the first PAGE single was released, establishing them as the house band of the Swedish poptronica scene. ‘Dansande Man’ (‘Dancing Man’) became an instant cult classic, and each successive recording has raised their standing as the Nordic successors to ULTRAVOX, GARY NUMAN and SPARKS.
Where other Swedish bands have aped DEPECHE MODE and their changes of style, PAGE have struck a course firmly rooted in the spirit of 1979.
There have been some changes to the line-up over the years, but the original team of Eddie Bengtsson and keyboardist Marina Schiptjenko has been the core since 2010. With each album, their sound has been refined and polished, until what is left is a bank of Moog filters and patches underpinning Bengtsson’s characteristic melodies. The result is a set of songs that are the natural successors to DRAMATIS and VISAGE with a Swedish twist.
Bengtsson can’t help making catchy hooks, and ‘Fakta För Alla’ (‘Facts For Everyone’) doesn’t have a single filler track. It is hardcore poptronica, with sweeping filters and bubbling basses providing the bedrock for Bengtsson’s dynamic vocal lines. Their 2017 album, ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’ suggested the direction that PAGE would be taking, but it didn’t prepare us for how good the songs would become.
The album opens with the title track, which draws upon Bengtsson’s love for English electronic music. He has previously covered Numan’s ‘Tracks’ (in Swedish as ‘Spår’) and the lightness and glam of Synth Britannia both find their way into the material. PAGE never bought into images of robotic alienation and having once covered SLADE’s ‘Coz I Luv You’, their upbeat style owes more to T-REX than JOHN FOXX.
‘Fakta För Alla’ is followed by ‘Puls’ (‘Pulse’), which takes the glam quotient higher with a stomping rhythm line and saw waves lined up in catchy phrases. Strings and soaring synths point to Billy Currie as a source of inspiration, but there is nothing derivative about the stylings.
‘Blöder Du’ (‘Are You Bleeding?’) takes proceedings in a darker direction. It is a classy, elegant track that growls and glowers with brooding synth lines.
Bengtsson ditched most of his keyboards for a collection of Moogs some time ago, and the familiar resonance of the company’s distinctive oscillators unites all of the songs on ‘Fakta För Alla’. There is something of ‘Vienna’-era ULTRAVOX in the sequencer line of ‘Första smällen’ (‘The First Punch’), but the noir spirit is warmed up by Bengtsson’s vocals. You don’t need to wear a trenchcoat or hang around Conny’s Studio to enjoy it, but it helps.
‘Klara Färdiga Gå’ (‘Ready Set Go’) takes the tempo up a notch with a track that is bound to become a live favourite. PAGE excel at simple, catchy and danceable poptronica, and the violin comes back here with purpose. That is followed by ‘Alla Ljuden I Ditt Rum’ (’All the Sounds in Your Room’), which finds PAGE at their most Numan-esque. The track’s low, electronic rhythms serve as the scaffolding for layers of atmospheric, gleaming pads and lead synths.
‘Glans & Gloria’ (‘Glory & Gloria’) is an instrumental that keeps the faith with the album’s 1979 vibe. It is inescapably Bengtsson’s music, but the addition of a virtual string section expands its sonic possibilities.
‘Kloner’ has Moog stylings galore. The technology sometimes leads to the song: just as it is hard to imagine ‘Cars’ without the Minimoog, it is also hard to imagine that someone wouldn’t have written ‘Cars’ once they had the keyboard in front of them. ‘Kloner’ wouldn’t sound the same with Roland or Yamaha instruments, but its dynamic, upbeat chorus wouldn’t have happened without Bengtsson’s natural gift for melody.
‘Okänd Man’ (‘Unknown Man’) starts with piano and violin under a sync patch from a Moog – a statement of intent drawn from the Billy Currie playbook, which leads into classic PAGE sounds.
One of Bengtsson’s achievements is to keep from sounding derivative of the classic electronic masters while borrowing some of their sounds and stylings.
The album wraps with two versions of ‘Maskin’ (‘Machine’) – the second a reprise. Previously, this is the kind of material that Bengtsson would reserve for his SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN project, but it fits naturally into the structure of ‘Fakta För Alla’. It also shows that the band’s sound has outgrown any simple pop labels – this is Pagetronica, in a class by itself.
Eddie Bengtsson has been a trailblazing presence on the Swedish electronic music scene.
While best known for his involvement in PAGE and S.P.O.C.K, there have also been his solo adventures SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN and THIS FISH NEEDS A BIKE as well as various productions, collaborations and remixes. Inspired by Synth Britannia, two of Bengtsson’s most notable influences have been Vince Clarke and Gary Numan, with ’Dreaming Of Me’ and ’Tracks’ among the cover versions he has recorded over the years. Meanwhile, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD and ULTRAVOX also loom heavily within Bengtsson’s concepts and sound.
Indeed, the moniker SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN, translated from Swedish as “last man on earth”, came from Phil Oakey’s spoken introduction on the latter’s original Fast Product version of ‘Circus Of Death’.
Eddie Bengtsson had actually started out as a drummer but dumped his kit for synths after hearing the ‘Music For Parties’ by SILICON TEENS, convinced they were a real band. As a indirect result, the music of Eddie Bengtsson has always been rhythmic and bursting with synth melodies, continuing to maintain a cult following both at home and in Europe.
Although having played their farewell concert in 2000, PAGE has become Bengtsson’s most comparatively prolific outlet since reuniting with Marina Schiptjenko in 2010 for the album ’Nu’.
With a independent zest and focus despite having made music for nearly four decades, 2013 and 2017 saw the respective releases of ’Hemma’ and ’Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’ by PAGE.
Meanwhile 2019 will see the release of a brand new PAGE long player; entitled ’Fakta För Alla’ (translated as ”Facts For All”), Bengtsson reckons ”It’s the best I have ever done and that says alot. Heavely influenced by my favourite albums, it’s the songs NumanVox never did”. From it, the first single will be ‘Kloner’.
So as a Beginner’s Guide to his vast catalogue of work under his many different guises, The Electricity Club presents eighteen songs which are decisively ‘Just Like Eddie’ with commentary from the man himself…
PAGE Dansande Man (1983)
Originally comprising of Eddie Bengtsson, Marina Schiptjenko and Anders Eliasson, PAGE brought the more purer form of poptronica to Sweden. Their debut single ‘Dansande Man’ was a frantically percussive excursion suitable for dancing to as the title suggested. Bengtsson recalled it as: “One of the only songs I have co-written with somebody else, maybe the only one in fact. I haven’t decided if the song is a blessing or a curse. If this is the only song you’ve heard by PAGE, then it’s sad”.
Originally released as a PAGE single via Eskimo Records, currently unavailable
Eddie Bengtsson has often been referred to as the Swedish Vince Clarke, he confessed: “I had a YAZOO-period once…” when describing the second PAGE single ‘Som Skjuten Ur En Kanon’. Taking their time with releasing a debut album, ‘Hallå! (Var Tog Månbasen Vägen?)’ was recorded by Bengtsson and Schiptjenko as a duo and eventually emerged in 1994. Meanwhile 1992’s interim ‘Page’ collection gathered various tracks and remixes from 1984-1991 as a clearing of the vaults.
Originally released as a PAGE single via Accelerating Blue Fish, currently unavailable
In parallel with PAGE, Bengtsson joined vocalist Alexander Hofman to write and perform some ‘Star Trek’ themed songs for a friend’s Trekkie themed birthday party. ‘Never Trust A Klingon’ is still their crowning moment, a genius combination of deadpan vocals, bubbling electronics and samples from Captain James T Kirk himself. “I wanted to make something ‘hard’ and mechanical for S.P.O.C.K. Maybe this is their ‘Dansande Man’ in a way. A timeless song I think”.
Available on the S.P.O.C.K album ‘Five Year Mission’ via Energy Rekords
‘Electricity’ was how many in the UK first heard of PAGE as the track was bootlegged for various OMD covers compilations. Bengtsson remembered: “We did this for an album featuring covers of classic electronic pop songs. Some songs you shouldn’t make covers of, because they are perfect as they are. Just as ‘Electricity’ is by OMD. Therefore I wanted it to sound as close to the original as I could”. Meanwhile, S.P.O.C.K contributed a detached reinterpretation of DURAN DURAN’s ‘Planet Earth’.
For their third album, the S.P.O.C.K acquired a new crew member in Johan Billing. Inspired by the Extra-Terrestrial’s growly catchphrase, despite once stating ‘All E.T:s Aren’t Nice’ Bengtsson was pumped and energised: “Maybe my favourite song of all the songs I wrote for S.P.O.C.K. And the only one I wrote the lyrics for to”. But despite this artistic high, he departed the Federation Starship via its transporter room at the end of his five year mission following ‘Assignment: Earth’.
Although initially a collaboration with Matts Wiberg, SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN was effectively Bengtsson’s solo vehicle. A glorious love song to Mother Earth, ‘En Blå Planet’ was a delightful drumbox waltz with haunting echoes of OMD’s ‘International’ that even had him soaring to falsetto. With grainy synthetic strings and becoming more percussively militaristic as it progressed, this was according to Bengtsson: “The first SMPJ song with lyrics. Still as beautiful as it was ‘then’”.
Available on the SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN EP via ‘Först I Rymden’ via SubSpace Communications AB
“PAGE had a ‘gitarr-pop’ period” lamented Bengtsson, “Marina wasn’t in the band anymore and I made the mistake of continuing with the name. Shouldn’t have done that. The interesting thing is I made a whole PAGE album where the synths sounded so very much like guitars, the listeners really thought they were. ‘Too much guitars some said’ and the ordinary pop people said ‘too much synths’. Those two albums were really good, but didn’t really reach anyone, which is sad!”
Available on the PAGE single ‘Som Det Var’ via SubSpace Communications AB
‘Leonov’ was a fine tribute to Alexey Leonov, the legendary Voskhod 2 cosmonaut who became the first man to walk in space in 1965 and also took part in the 1975’s joint US / Soviet Apollo Soyuz Test Project. With its spacey floating vibe, it more than fitted in with regular space travel and Sci-Fi themes of SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN. “I wanted to get the feeling of a big spaceship, down in the machine room, a bit Russian and all. An SMPJ favourite” said Bengtsson, “The video made for this, was totaly weird!”
Available on the SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN album ‘Ok, Ok, Ok’ via SubSpace Communications AB
Having sung in Swedish for most of his career, Bengtsson looked to the language of the electronic pop that had emerged from British post-punk. While ‘Putting My Suit On’ could have been PAGE or SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN, ‘Do It’ had a deeper aggressiveness to its texture: “From another CD that kinda just passed by. THIS FISH NEEDS A BIKE is / was my English project. I wanted to do some kind of Punktronica. The whole album is very good!”
Available on the THIS FISH NEEDS A BIKE album ‘Between A & B’ via Energy Rekords
‘Allt Är Klart’ was an ULTRAVOX tribute and effectively a Swedish vocal version of the instrumental B-side ‘Alles Klar’. The hard staccato bassline was borrowed from the original, but the track was bolstered by some superb whirring synths in the tradition of Billy Currie’. “I told Christer Hermodsson (the other part of SMPJ and stage keyboardist) to make this ULTRAVOX sounding song even more ULTRAVOX sounding.” Bengtsson recalled, “ Christer is a big ULTRAVOX fan, and he made this so very cool”.
Having departed in 1996 and found European success in BWO, Marina Schiptjenko returned to PAGE in 2010; Bengtsson was very pleased to see her back: “From the album ‘Nu’ and that was PAGE’s ‘Marina is back again in the band’ album. New sound but still very PAGE”. With its electro Schaffel stomp, ‘Ett S.O.S’ allowed Bengtsson to freely exploit his Glamtronica instincts, something very much in evidence on PAGE’s 2012 cover of SLADE’s ‘Coz I Luv U’ for ‘The Seventies Revisited’ tribute compilation.
ROBERT MARLOW The Future – Glamtronica Redux By Eddie B (2013)
For ‘The Future’, Eddie Bengtsson took his Glamtronica ethos to Basildon for his treatment of the Essex new town’s often forgotten trailblazer, best known for being a former bandmate of Alison Moyet and the best friend of Vince Clarke who produced his best known tune ‘The Face Of Dorian Gray’: “Well, that song really got so much cooler after my Glamtronica treatment. But still, Marlow is Marlow and what he does, it’s what he should sound like, and that cool enough”. 🙂
The warm reception for ‘Nu’ and the remergence of electronic pop led to PAGE following up with ‘Hemma’. Beginning with a sampled burst of THE SEX PISTOLS ‘Holidays In The Sun’ before revealing a distinctly Clarkean spirit deep inside the song’s genetic make-up, ’Lyssnade På Min Radio’ was something of an angry musical rant with Bengtsson’s observations on the awfulness of modern radio shows: “A classic pop song, about all the crap music that gets played on radio. This song never did”.
Available on the PAGE album ‘Hemma’ via Wonderland Records
Stockholm duo Kajsa Olofsson and Mark Pettersson were already veterans of five more conventionally minded albums and initially influenced by Grunge. But for their sixth long playing offering ‘Kajser Und Marit’, they wanted a fresh electronic touch. Enter label mate Eddie Bengtsson as collaborator and producer: “MY GOD DAMN TERRITORY, probably Sweden’s coolest most fresh indietronica band. A bit sad they opted for making a vinyl instead of a CD. Should have been huge, this band”.
“The newest song from SMPJ. I really love it. Gives me goose bumps when I hear it” says Bengtsson. Originally released as a single domestically in Swedish, the sparkly atmospheric pop of ‘Stadens Alla Ljus’ was given an English language treatment by Simon Helm of Cold War Night Life as the lyrically darker ‘All The City Lights’ for a special ‘Translate’ EP made available exclusively to attendees of SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN’s debut London performance at The Lexington in 2015.
Available on the SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN single ‘Stadens Alla Ljus’ via Club Electro Sound Sweden Records
“THE VOLT, with me and Ulrika Mild from COMPUTE did this one single…” said Bengtsson, “there was plans for more, maybe still are. Played a lot of ‘Fallout 3’ when I made this and of course it is a cover”. Written by jazz guitarist Dickie Thompson as ‘Thirteen Women & One Man’ and made famous by Elvis Presley’s unrequited crush Ann Margret, Mild gave her own seductive Bassey-like vocal treatment over the drum machine laden backing in this saucy ode to post-apocalypse permissiveness.
After ‘Lyssnade På Min Radio’, Bengtsson found solace in ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘Vienna’: “I have really found how I want PAGE to sound like, this is it. I built some ‘walls’ to shut out all the music that don’t interest me. Inside the walls I have my favourite albums. I listen to them alot, and almost only them. I get a kick from that and lots of inspiration. It’s a model I recommend to anyone. We can call it the Eddie-modell and I can explain it better some other time”.
Available on the PAGE EP ‘Start’ via Energy Rekords
ANYMACHINE featuring JEDDY 3 To See A Man Like Me Go Down (2018)
A sombre number laced with the darker side of early OMD in its gothic overdrones for a collection of modern electronic pop inspired by John Hughes and The Brat Pack, ‘To See A Man Like Me Go Down’ saw Bengtsson dust off his JEDDY 3 moniker used in 2006 for the one-off ‘Another Day’: “ANYMACHINE is the very talented Ulf Persson from ARACHNOPHOBIA, it’s just that he doesn’t know how talented he is. This is his song that I wrote the lyrics and the song melody for. A nice collaboration”.
Available on the compilation album ‘Romo Night Records Vol 1’ (V/A) via Romo Night Records