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
Alison and Vince, Annie and Dave, Karin and Olaf… and to that list of trailblazing female / male electronic duos can be added Marina and Eddie.
Photo by Petro Vidberg
PAGE have had a loyal cult following back home in Sweden since their 1983 debut single ‘Dansande Man’.
The duo of Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko released their self-titled debut album in 1992 while their final first phase release ‘Helt Nära’ came out in 1998.
In some territories though, PAGE are best known for a version of OMD’s Electricity’ from the 1995 synth covers album ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ and their take on ‘Dreaming Of Me’ for the DEPECHE MODE tribute compilation ‘Sometimes I Wish I Was Famous’, both released on Energy Rekords.
As well as PAGE, Bengtsson had his ongoing solo mission SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN and found fame with as one of the crew in S.P.O.C.K, while Schiptjenko joined Alexander Bard from ARMY OF LOVERS in VACUUM and then BWO.
PAGE’s most recent trilogy of albums ‘Nu’, ‘Hemma’ and ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’ have affirmed their position as one of the Nordic region’s leading electronic pop pioneers.
But deep inside his pysche, Eddie Bengtsson has always been something of a Numanoid and the new ‘Start’ EP sees PAGE going the full machine music hog with the ultimate homage to the imperial years of the man born Gary Anthony James Webb.
With the news of a live return to London for PAGE in September alongside RATIONAL YOUTH + PSYCHE, Eddie Bengtsson spoke to The Electricity Club about space and the synthesizer frontier…
Space travel and Sci-Fi has always been an interest for you but what came first, this or music?
Sci-Fi came first, if we are talking electronic music. Science Fiction got me in to early electronic music. Early electronic music, like French Space-Disco and stuff sounded like Sci-Fi and the future to me. If we not talking electronic music, then it was music that came in to my life before sci-fi. I grew up during Glam&Glitter, so there is where my “musical roots” are, and you can hear that pretty often listening to PAGE.
Glam Rock has been a key influence in PAGE and you’ve even covered ‘Coz I Luv U’ by SLADE, is this an under-appreciated era of music?
I think it is an under-appreciated era of music amongst lovers of electronic music at least. Many Glam bands were early using synthesizers in their songs like THE SWEET and CHICORY TIP.
Did you grow up watching Gerry Anderson TV shows like ‘Thunderbirds’, ‘Joe 90’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’? The associated craft and vehicles were brilliant…
Swedish TV didn’t show an early Gerry Anderson, like ‘Stingray’, ‘Thunderbirds’, ‘Captain Scarlet’ or ‘UFO’ The first series they showed was ‘Space: 1999’, and then only 10 episodes, the episodes that the Swedish National TV thought was suitable for the Swedish audience!
So ‘UFO’ or ‘Space: 1999’?
If I have to choose, then it’s ‘Space: 1999’, but ‘UFO’ comes second on my list of best Gerry Anderson shows.
The ‘Start’ EP parties like it’s 1979, discuss! 😉
Well, I have listened to early electronic pop in the last few years. I made a “list” of what I still love and what still inspires me.
I came to the conclusion that there are around nine or so albums that still sounds as cool and fresh as it did then, around 1978 – 1980. Electronic pop music (and New Wave) doesn’t sound like that anymore, and I wanted to. The artists that are still around are way off the track from what I loved about them.
So, I kinda tried to sound like I wish they still did, or did for more than one or two albums. It’s a silly thing to say, but I think I “found home”.
How important has GARY NUMAN been to you musically?
Lately, alot! Those three albums ‘Replicas’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘Telekon’ are three of the best New Wave / electronic pop albums ever made. There also on my list of best albums ever. I think when they came out, that I didn’t really appreciate them for what they were. There was so much other stuff around, so I didn’t have the time to really LISTEN to them thoroughly. Right before our latest full length CD, I would listen to those three albums alot (and still do) and I discovered so much. Wonderful and perfect albums (and music).
The releases that came from GARY NUMAN after ‘Telekon’, starting with ‘Dance’ and then ‘Warriors’, I bought them when they came out but, they were really really bad. Gone was all the magic, the sound, the quality, everything. Last year when I sold most of my electronic vinyl collection, those two albums was not keepers. Actually, I had them on CD too and I threw them away. I don’t want to keep albums that I don’t like or have any connection to.
I like to remember Numan as he was, the music he made and how he looked (coolness), therefore I try to shut his new stuff out and therefore I didn’t go to his show when he played here is Sweden. That would have ruined the magic for me. Still… I do respect him as a musician and respect him for that he has fought hard and is still “going strong”.
You covered ‘Tracks’ in Swedish as ‘Spår’ and did a Numan tribute on ‘Utanför’ for your most recent album ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’? What tricks did you use to pay homage to this imperial Numan sound?
Whenever I buy a new synth (though I have stopped doing that now, I bought probably my last one this Spring), one of the first things that I do is to “Numanize” it. That means, that I listen to my favourite Numan tracks and try to make those sounds with my new synth. And later on, those are the sounds I use with PAGE.
I also listen to the production, the layers, the drums, the stereo panning, the harmonies. All that stuff fills me with inspiration. Then I mix that with the usual Eddie B touch… *laughs*
‘Stör Ej’ borrows from ‘Love Needs No Disguise’ which Numan did with his former backing band DRAMATIS for their ‘For Future Reference’ album. Were they an under rated band to you?
Oh yeah. DRAMATIS was very underrated. I think they contributed alot to Numan’s sound and arrangement on those three classic albums. And if you listen to ‘Dance’, it seems like that truth. GARY NUMAN, DRAMATIS, CUDDLY TOYS and ZAINE GRIFF are my absolute favourites and the greatest of inspiration sources.
‘Nere För Räkning’ exposes more of an ULTRAVOX influence, although you have been here before with ‘Allt Är Klart’ as SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN? How did this track come together?
Simple answer, I wanted to something that sounded like ULTRAVOX’s ‘Alles Klar’. Christer Hermodsson (the other part of SMPJ) is a big ULTRAVOX fan and really did a good work on that production and the solo.
With ‘Nere För Räkning’ , I don’t know really. Maybe I tried to mix ULTRAVOX and Numan there. But I don’t think the ULTRAVOX influence was intentional.
The Italo-styled remix of ‘Krasch’ by APOPTYGMA BERZERK is on paper unexpected but also simultaneously quite obvious… how did this union come about?
I never cared about APOPTYGMA BERZERK, because I knew what it was. Hard Electronica, stuff that I didn’t relate to at all. That was until… I got their latest album ‘Exit Popularity Contest’ from my friend and APOP-involvee Per Axel Lundgreen. He gave it to me and said that should listen to it, because I might like it. And I was all “yeah right!”. What I later on heard in my car going home, totally blew me away! Wonderful electronic music and nothing at all like as had expected. It was electronic music that sounded if it was made in the early 70s and something that JEAN-MICHEL JARRE would sell his soul for to be able to do today. It was obviously heavy inspired by, in my opinion, French early electronic music.
I just felt I had to write down and publish (on Facebook) my feelings about that record and it became in a sense a review of the album. Both Per Axel and Stephan Groth of APOP saw the “review” and from there on, contact was made. Stephan and I both realised that we have alot in common when it comes to preferences when it comes to electronic music. And, maybe there will come more out of this new friendship…
So how would you like PAGE to be described? Is it synthpop or is it poptronica or what?
I would say as I always do and have always done; PAGE is electronic pop music. But you can also call it poptronica if you want. “Synthpop”, I don’t really know what that should be. Pop made on synthesizers? If so then that genre is huge. Because most commercial contemporary pop music today is made solely using synthesizers.
What do you make of this Synth Wave thing coming out of North America in the wake of ‘Drive’?
I don’t know anything about that at all.
The first and last time PAGE played live in London was 2014, how are plans coming together for a return?
There are plans. We are coming in September!
Photo by Simon Helm
How do you think PAGE have developed musically since the early days and then your comeback with ‘Nu’ in 2010, particularly in the creative dynamic between you and Marina?
I think the music has become less naive, both music wise and lyrics wise. I have grown older and that reflects in the music of course. I have also narrowed in what I do love about electronic music (and pseudo-electronic music) and with that has evolved the sound and the style of PAGE’s music.
Still, there is the element that people recognise and like. It’s not that we have changed altogether like most bands do. Marina does what she always has done, she is my creative feedback giver. She has always given me good honest feedback to the music and always given me advice on things musically.
Was there ever any likelihood that PAGE could have become more of a pseudo-rock band like DEPECHE MODE did?
No. We found our roots, evolved, grew up and matured right from the start (well, almost at least…)
You worked with MY GOD DAMN TERRITORY and transformed them into an electronic pop act?
Yeah, that was fun! They was originally something totally different. In start it was more like a “just for fun” thing when I made a redux of one of their songs. But they liked it so much so, we continued the collaboration and it became what it is; Sweden’s coolest indietronica act. I still do reduxes for them and soon there will be a new single released.
You have started a project THE VOLT with Ulrika Mild aka COMPUTE, how is this progressing and can we expect an EP or album soon?
We did a follow-up to the single, but I think it’s temporarily (I hope) stuck in production “somewhere”.
Referencing ‘Lyssnade På Min Radio’ from the 2013 PAGE album ‘Hemma’, “They don’t play good songs on the radio anymore…”, do we need radio anymore or are streaming playlists the way to go?
Well, I Iike radio, just not the music that the huge stations play. Radio is good, because many people are hearing the same thing at the same time and that’s nice. There is always the joy in knowing that it’s not just you hearing this right now. But, maybe I’m old-fashioned and people today don’t think that way anymore. Everybody is an individualist, or like to think they are. Because what they have on their playlist is just what everybody else have on theirs, it’s just that they don’t hear it at the same time. Maybe I’m exaggerating here I don’t know, but that’s the way I feel that it is.
The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Eddie Bengtsson
The Count and Countess of Swedish electronic pop are back-back-BACK!
Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko initially came together in PAGE as far back as 1980, releasing their first single ‘Dansande Man’ in 1983. Since then, the pair have parted and reunited on a number of occasions although both continued to make sine waves at home and internationally.
Bengtsson had his ongoing solo mission SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN but found fame with S.P.O.C.K while Schiptjenko joined Alexander Bard from ARMY OF LOVERS in VACUUM and then BWO.
Their latest EP ‘Start’ comprises of three new songs plus a remix by Norwegian EBM trailblazers APOPTYGMA BERZERK. Having already covered GARY NUMAN’s ‘Tracks’ in Swedish as ‘Spår’ and paid an initial Numanoid tribute on ‘Utanför’ for ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’, PAGE have gone the full hog with the ultimate homage to the imperial years of the man born Gary Anthony James Webb.
The appropriately named ‘Start’ remembers a time before ‘Dance’ ever happened with buzzing Minimoog basslines and swirling Polymoog strings coming over like a mash-up of ‘Tracks’ and ‘Metal’. Yes, there are machine music overtures but there is melody too, a skilful trait often forgotten with vintage Numan.
Photo by Simon Helm
‘Stör Ej’ goes a step further and as well as borrowing from ‘This Wreckage’, it actually samples the Compurhythm pattern from ‘Love Needs No Disguise’ halfway through. But despite the familiar aesthetics, this is a song that stands up on its own with a fabulous retro-futuristic tone.
Best of all though is ‘Nere För Räkning’, an urgent slice of pulsing synthrock with a piercing vibratoed lead line akin to the keyboard acrobatics of Billy Currie from ULTRAVOX who was part of the Numan band for the UK leg of ‘The Touring Principle’.
Assisted by Per Aksel Lundgreen, Stephan Groth of APOPTYGMA BERZERK provides a redux of ‘Krasch’ from ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’. Now while the union with PAGE may seem unlikely, APop’s most recent long player ‘Exit Popularity Contest’ was a wonderful instrumental retreat into the territory of JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and NEU! It showed that Groth had as much of a sweet ear for electronic melody as PAGE, even if it was usually hidden by noise and aggression. With an Italo-derived octave shift bassline replacing the more rigid structure of the album version, APOPTYGMA BERZERK’s rework greatly improves on the original.
Yes, this EP does party like it’s 1979, but that familiarity helps it to possibly be one of PAGE’s most immediate and accessible bodies of work in their long career. If you have never checked out the work of Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko before, then this release is no better way to start…
Sweden is one territory where without doubt, some of the best synth based music has emerged.
With the standard set back in the day by PAGE, LUSTANS LAKEJER, ELEGANT MACHINERY, THE MOBILE HOMES and COVENANT, the tradition has continued via THE KNIFE, KITE, KARIN PARK, IONNALEE and DAILY PLANET.
But a few years ago, some strange things were happening within the Swedish electronic music community as it began to eat itself…
A number of promoters, purveyors and performers were observed to be going through some kind of an existential crisis, unsure whether synthpop was a dirty word and success was a sin of principle.
Thankfully, one faction who are very much of the view that the synth is not dead is Romo Night Records, a label born out of a long standing club night founded in Gothenburg by Tobbe Lander and Tony Ersborg. Their roll of honour has included hosting the likes of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, KARL BARTOS, MESH, CLIENT and S.P.O.C.K amongst others.
Their first fruit of labours is ‘Romo Night Records Vol 1’, a collection of unreleased material from a variety of new acts and veterans. Fittingly enough with the latter, Eddie Bengtsson of PAGE appears under the pseudonym of Jeddy 3 on ANYMACHINE’s ‘To See A Man Like Me Go Down’ for a sombre number that is laced with the darker side of early OMD in its gothic overdrones.
It’s unusual to hear Bengtsson in English, so when another voice normally heard in English sings in her native Swedish, it’s something of a revelation as Helena Wigeborn’s new project GLAS proves.
The stunning TRAIN TO SPAIN frontwoman actually speaks English with a delightful Edinburgh accent from having lived in the city for several years and ‘Hjärta’ is marvellous slice of sparkling midtempo synthpop which allows her vocal to breathe within the backing.
Another superb highlight is ‘The Pattern’ by HILTIPOP who impressed with a solo late afternoon live set at Electronic Summer in 2015. Dark but accessible via a lattice of hypnotic arpeggios, SEM Hilti Johansson was a member of the YAZOO influenced ALISON and does not compromise on the hooks despite his gloomier vocal outlook. He is definitely an artist to watch.
No synth compilation would be complete without a melodic instrumental work and that is provided by RELIEF with the brilliant ‘Trough The Wires’ which even throws in an unexpected key change.
Elsewhere and unsurprisingly, DEPECHE MODE influences are omnipresent and can be heard on SISTER ELECTRA’s ‘The Quiet Room’ where the Basildon sound is given a female twist by Luna Joyce, while ‘Nasa’ from STRANGE TALES mines the earlier era and comes over like a cross between THE MOBILE HOMES and CAMOUFLAGE.
‘Romo Night Records Vol 1’ though is not all exclusively synths; NORTHERN LONER in their use of live instruments alongside their stabbing electronics have obviously listened to a lot of classic SIMPLE MINDS on ‘Break In Two’, but the track is spoilt slightly by a stilted drum track and the vocals being too loud. Meanwhile PARK & NATUR stick out like a sore thumb with the indie guitar afflicted ‘Mörka Sidan’.
NEO NURSES add plenty of creepy detuned electronic noises to their gothic demeanour on the enjoyable ‘A Crown Of Thorns To Keep Me Warm’ and cut from a similar opaque cloth, UNCREATED provide some chromatic mystery with the resonances of a deep male choir on ‘We Never Met’.
Subtitled as “A collection of the new brat pack” complete with artwork referencing ‘The Breakfast Club’, could this be Sweden’s 21st Century answer to the ‘Some Bizzare Album’? Of course, that compilation unearthed DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE.
Whereas it is too early to assess its potential, ‘Romo Night Records Vol 1’ as a first compendium does a good job of keeping synthpop alive and making that crucial link between past and present, something which other platforms have failed to accept, thus imploding in its self-inflicted confusion.
As the respected Factory Records biographer and historian James Nice said: “I have no problem at all with something new being imitative, as long as it’s good” – good music and good songs, synthpop or otherwise is really all that matters.