Service lived forever.
There is no “cause” for this. Except, possibly, the effect: desire already spreading along new lines, multiplying endlessly.
Service was a free zone, pop lab, gang turf and permanent vacation. Never an object, always a territory, like the uncertainty principle. That’s the main lesson I’ve been teaching. In that sense I gave to you my life, my ambition, my hope. And some haine of course.
And, as promised, Service is deterritorialising. Both are carbon, remember: the diamond turns into a pencil. It’s traces shaping nomadic paths.
And I hope the music become weapons in the hands of new partisans.
Now take it, it’s yours.
- Ola Borgström, 2012
It’s almost a year since Service closed its doors. A company born out of ambition and gang spirit, the Gothenburg (and later Stockholm) based boutique label, founded by one Ola Borgström in 2001, released some of the most important alt. pop records of the past decade. From the sadly departed Studio to the people’s prince of heartbreak Jens Lekman, Service provided the original blueprint that would go on to shape the Swedish underground scene throughout the early 00′s and, in turn, birthed three equally impressive (and inventive) labels – Sincerely Yours, Information and, more recently, US-based Cascine.
Jeff Bratton, Cascine’s founder, ended up running the spin-off label after PRing Service in the US. “For me as a lover of pop music, Service was one of the most influential European labels of the 2000s. Their vision for the genre was so rogue and so stylish. Service was a lifestyle. Like great labels before them – Creation, Factory, Sarah Records, etc. – a sense of culture existed around Service. This was intriguing. Cascine grew out of this approach – an extension of our admiration of labels with a focused aesthetic.”
This month, Cascine pays tribute to one of the Gothernberg greats via a reissue of Boat Club’s Caught The Breeze, a record that’s endured since its 2007 release. Bratton tells of his love for the record - ”Caught the Breeze is an undisputed gem that captures a really lovely slice of ’00s Gothenburg. It’s music for dreamers – subtle, wistful, transportive. Of all the incredible stuff coming out of that scene, the Boat Club material resonated with me the most.”
Call it what you want (as long as it’s not ‘Balearic’), the tropical undercurrent aligned with naked ambition that rippled through Service’s early output still hits as hard today as it did back in 2001 when Studio released their debut single ‘The End Of Fame’. “Try making a ring tone out of this, you bastards”, they said.
Here, we offer up ten albums from the Service family that attempt to capture the beauty of this indescribable, fluctuating, mad sound that melts our hearts, alongside an exclusive mix from Best Fit founder and former Service associate Rich Thane with artwork by long-time Service collaborator and artist Alexander Palmestål.
Here Comes The Future was the first, and only, solo album Michael Carlsson released under the title of The Honeydrips. Formerly of Dorotea, now of WÆE, it was proof enough that the guy certainly never necessarily needed collaboration to generate the goods; this shimmering half hour of indie dance plays like a hits collection, hits that his influences – the likes of The Cure and New Order – could certainly have done with at certain points in their comparatively patchy careers.
The Honeydrips, perhaps sensibly, made the one record, and made it great. Underneath its glorious, glittering exterior – all endorphin-raising synths and gently funk-tinged bass – is song craft of a lofty calibre, often calling to mind what The Jesus and Mary Chain could have sounded like if they’d dropped the fuzz once in a while and stared out at the ocean instead.
- Thomas Hannan
2009′s ‘Loved Up’ was the departure point for Korellreven, a side project for The Radio Dept.’s Daniel Tjäder. Hooking up with dreamy aloof (in vocal as in person) of Marcus Joons, the pair took two years to finally produce An Album by Korellreven, a record that seemed to vision an entire ecstasy trip from beginning to end in the most abstract and heightened language, both musical and lyrical.
Joons was one of the few figures who embodied the peculiarly Scandinavian aspect attached to the musical invention we’re celebrating here: an almost atheistic spiritual that bounced between a sense of escape, a wonder of nature, the bonds of friendship and love’s enduring capacity to change lives.
“It’s such a cliché but I think that we complete each other like fire and ice,” Joons told Best Fit. It’s that sense of poetic hyperbole that sits behind An Album By…, with its lush wash of instrumental ambience and trippy rhetoric that offers something beyond simple entertainment – it’s a symphony for the soul.
- Paul Bridgewater
Was any album ever released with a cannabis leaf emblazoned on the cover too weighty a listen? From the opening twinkle with which playlist choice ‘Things Will Never Be the Same Again’ glimmers into life, this 2009 record is no exception – an album full of breath, buoyant on its landscape quality, blissed-out harmonies, and hypnotic electronic texture.
From the country strum of ‘Are You Still in Vallda’, to the gentle house pulse of ‘Intermezzo’, the uplifting, gentle sway of the album never peaks uncomfortably, content rather to mine its subtly overwhelming vein of unpretentious chill-out.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however – and the strung-out positivity and new-age vibe of this taut twosome is laced with a yearning nostalgia that flexes a depth for the more engaged listener. On the surface, however, the simple beauty of its pop aura is open to all.
- Sam Briggs
By the time Janne Kask and Kallå Kåks came to release on Service in 2009, the sonic stage set for them was evocative of the cover they chose for the record.
From the crystalline, depthless wash of the ocean, to the sun-drenched sense of escapism, the mural is, in every extent, picture perfect. And true to form, much like the door in the photo’s middle, to enter the album is to lose touch with everyday mundanity, and revel in the relaxed, bewitching warmth of its lambent quality.
With a glistening production (from Studio’s Dan Lissvik) that gives a clean, but far from clinical, cosmic sense to its swirling embrace, the gentle melancholia of Trust in Numbers makes boring preoccupations seems weightless.
Quit your job, screw the mortgage – and float off into the pastel-pop sensibilities of Lake Heartbeat, and the lazy pace of their un-dated, timeless ambience.
- Sam Briggs
In the beginning, Service revolved around three pivotal acts: Studio, The Embassy and The Tough Alliance. All three born from the underground scene of Gothenburg, each came with their own unique identity. Studio were predominantly anonymous, their artwork and imagery a blank unbranded canvas; Service poster boys The Embassy were all cheek bones and indie pop swagger; and The Tough Alliance? The class bullies.
Debut The New School was a strange beast, its spirit a curious blend of hard edged pop, hooligan tomfoolery and overtly camp macho spirit. Matched with their infamous ‘live’ shows (ie. miming to backing tracks and intimidating audience members with baseball bats) The Tough Alliance – to lift a quote from early single ‘Holiday’ – “couldn’t give a flying fuck what other people say”. They were the Gallagher brothers of the Gothenburg pop scene.
It was with A New Chance that TTA’s sound developed into something truly special, something real. Released on their own Sincerely Yours label, the record was fuelled by a blissful air of free spirit and optimism. The song titles may still have hinted at a thuggish exterior (‘Neo Violence’, ‘First Class Riot’) but the material bordered on the euphoric. The title track was an anthem for new beginnings with a knowing nod to their roots: “I know a place where diamond’s never fade away” – a reference to Service’s diamond logo.
A New Chance would be TTA’s last hurrah and its legacy was a blueprint for the next five years of Sincerely Yours. Short and incredibly sweet, TTA’s motto was summed up beautifully in ‘Neo Violence’ – “no excuses, no looking back”.
- Rich Thane
Gothenburg’s most celebrated sons The Embassy were, and continue to be, the epitome of cool. Their music was steeped in English pop traditions – a dash of Factory Records here, a pepper of Sarah Records there – all tied together by a very Swedish sense of style and a knowing arrogance.
Massively influential to the scene they were very much the centre of (both Studio and The Tough Alliance lifting their subsequent label names from Embassy songs – Information and Sincerely Yours, respectively), the group’s second full length Tacking was a self-proclaimed modern classic. Service founder Ola Borgstrom delightfully referred to it as “the single greatest pop album of the 21st century”. Despite his obvious bias, one can’t deny Tacking of its self indulgence: bold as brass yet light as a feather, it continues to define and influence a generation of pop purists eight years since release.
- Rich Thane
West Coast isn’t a concept album, but it could be; or the soundtrack to a film I sincerely hope nobody ever makes, about what might happen if the Hacienda was relocated to the shores of the Gothenburg Archipelago.
The duo who made up Studio, Dan Lissvik and Rasmus Hägg, were clearly attentive students of the likes of New Order and the Happy Mondays, but pushed the dancefloor filling sides of the Factory aesthetic to glorious extremes. There are only six tracks here, but these babies are long, spreading out across fifty five head-expanding minutes until they encroach on territory they went on to share with the likes of more straight up electro masterminds like Lindstrom and Prins Thomas.
Though it’s certainly an immersive listen, West Coast‘s trump card is never once slipping in to self indulgence – the fact that Lissvik went on to work with Kylie Minogue seems like a perfect fit, even after indulging in all sixteen stately minutes of opener ‘Out There’.
- Thomas Hannan
Released almost six years ago, Lekman’s second full length release remains one the of best records of the last decade – but while Night Falls Over Kortedala absolutely has a place in the context of this feature, its creator, perhaps, does not.
Kortedala‘s setting – a suburb in the north east of Gothenburg – gave the album a sense of geography beyond his earlier releases and anything since. Pre-Kortedala tracks like ‘Tram #7 to Heaven’ may have referenced his hometown but Lekman’s flowering on Kortedala saw him absorb much more. Not just the characters who littered his every day (‘Shiran’) but a greater connect to what his contemporaries were up to.
Sly nods to were given to bands such as The Tough Alliance, with the duo’s ‘Take No Heroes’ sampled on standout track ‘I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You’. While that could have been been an effect of Lekman’s relationship with TTA’s Henning Fürst (they used to be badminton partners) there’s evidence throughout Kortedala of a much more musical link.
The record’s tropicalia flourishes crash against a lighter brand of the same pulsating beats that were driving the likes of Air France and TTA. Framing Lekman’s black twee lyricism, the odd combination sounded unlike anything else at the time.
It was a meeting of euphoric glee with earnest deadpan. Lekman’s follow up – last year’s I Know What Love Isn’t – was a record inspired significantly by different set of geographical reference points and experiences. A more finessed work in many ways but a move beyond the musical fabric of that curious Gothenburg sound.
- Paul Bridgewater
Air France, the Gothenburg duo of Joel Karlsson and Henrik Markstedt, never released an album, so at this point their two EPs, On Trade Winds (2006) and No Way Down (2008), might as well be considered a single work. And, goddamn, they were good. Today’s tired electronic/pop buzzwords—lush, blissful, ethereal—have only been exhausted of meaning because Air France’s music monopolized them first. They showed how positive-sounding, halfway-dance music is always more complicated than it seems; they burned onto a CD how it feels to at once lie sun-blind on the beach in the arms of someone you love and cry under your blankets at the memory.
Air France was like optimism and pessimism touching. Their thesis statement was simply contained in the song ‘No Excuses’: No excuses left/ Waiting to fail but not quite yet, something like an epitaph printed on a birth certificate. How long do butterflies live? They’re too elegant; it can’t be long. And so, in early 2012, Air France made good on that song’s unhappy promise and announced their retirement, writing: “We have probably produced 7 albums since No Way Down; a UK Garage record, a house record, an R&B record… but we’ve never been able to finish anything, nothing was ever good enough. We have tried so hard, and we truly gave it all we had.”
Their ultimate failure to recapture the heights of their two EPs only solidifies those records’ magic – Karlsson and Markstedt weren’t just gifted, but lucky, too. Only for a short time did the planets align for these two guys, and for that reason, they’re the rare “perfect” group that makes you feel like there’s a chance someday you could be perfect too.
- Duncan Cooper
More deserving of a re-issue than any other record this last decade, Caught The Breeze is the epitome of ‘the lost classic’. Brought back to life by Cascine this month after a limited CD run during its 2007 release on indie pop label Luxury , the remastered tracks sound more alive and vital than ever before.
Magnus Wahlström and Andreas Christakis formed Boat Club in 2006. The duo’s former project Citylights disbanded after the departure of drummer Hannes, and, although there was no ‘official’ release in their seven year existence, the DNA for Boat Club’s sound was ever present.
Combining the fuzzy naval gazing tones of peers The Radio Dept. with a more conventional approach to pop song structure, Citylights would record dozens of demos in vain. As the strains and impracticalities of converting the sonic ideas into a full band situation started to take their toll, Magnus and Andreas purged their efforts towards a more electronic direction and, Boat Club was born.
Magnus Wahlström reflects on the birth of Caught The Breeze: “There was a definite oceanic breeze streaming out of Gothenburg in 2007, and we did want to capture that in its essence. We wanted it to be a short and concise snapshot of the moment, so the mini-album format was perfect for us.
“(Caught The Breeze) is definitely a conceptual album, a reflection of a moment in time. Since we never had any statements to make, or points to get across, I hope we managed to make it somewhat timeless. Which is a ridiculous statement in itself, since it’s forever bound in time and location.”
Six songs that shimmer with a timeless pastoral glow, there’s a magic present on Caught The Breeze. It’s the same yearning for something you’ve yet to experience – or a person you’re yet to meet – that found a similar home in the sound of Air France. It is, at once, romantic, yearning and completely bedazzling – a lucid dream in aural form.
As the sole release from a duo who’d clocked up eight years together, the record’s appeal takes on a curious resonance; revisiting the tracks is like unearthing a time capsule. Now the dust has been unsettled and a new generation of fans can appreciate the record, is there likelihood of new Boat Club material on the horizon? Wahlström suggests not:
“Boat Club was Caught The Breeze, there is nothing to add anymore to either Caught The Breeze or Boat Club. We will both keep making music in one form or another, although it will always be sporadic and disorganised.
“Another short-lived, conceptual project might still happen, but it also might be not for another 6 years.”
To pull apart and critique the album is like having to choose your favourite child: it’s impossible and offensive. Each song lives and breathes in a defined space yet the record as a whole is a cloaked in a subdued, hypnotic haze when taken as a whole. Opener ‘All The Time’ – a dive in the ocean with a loved one – offers the initial sense of longing present throughout Caught The Breeze (“I think of you / All The Time”), fuelled by a nostalgia that continues throughout each and every second. The record’s pivotal moment ‘Memories’ offers a shuffling ode to a past relationship over a soft bed of cascading chords and breathy synth pads with Andreas’ cooing vocal “I have a picture of me and you / pictures of places we used to go.”
Everything here is pure imagery, pure indulgence.
With nostalgia in mind, how does Wahlström react when hearing the material with fresh ears, almost seven years on?
“Listening to it today still recalls those feelings of that perfect summer in 2006 or the love for a city few could even point out on a map. For years all we heard was things we wanted to change or improve, but now I think we can finally listen to it with some distance and let it be whatever it is.
“The boat is now a wreck at the bottom of the Balearic Sea, for the formidable Cascine dive team to explore.”
- Rich Thane