Far from his formative beginnings, the work of Malmö, Sweden’s Magnus Johansson—aka Bam Spacey—incorporates the accumulated visions of prior EPs into the songs that comprise the memory patterns of his long-awaited album, 1998. Previous releases like Land and River have been the crucial stepping stones in the digital creeks that pass through to the delta of our following exclusive premiere of 1998, available now from Ceremony Recordings. As Bam Spacey has merged together the digital with the human, and mixed motifs of earth with water through experiments of sound—the same courtesy is shown on this full-length through the act and art of reconnecting and reconstituting the places, feelings, and recollections of time.
The marble cast pillars of place and time fall, as “Introduktion (Minne)” provides the introductory sequence into the memory method stream that begins the journey of 1998. Mixtures of sampled breath and running water cross the east and west intersection of “Vak”, before descending into the subterranean mist and fog of “Samma Liv”. On an album constructed from memories, every track appeals to a particular facet of cognitive observation where a hook or key combination makes a lasting, indelible impression. The title cut mixes the crossroads of youth and adulthood with an electronic dance medium that both is informed by late-’90s techno sounds, while improving on the technologies and sensibilities of the former.
Magnus keeps his heart close to every aspect of the album’s production, conveying rich connective atmospheres from the heart-beating hesitations of “Markbildning (II)”, to “Upplyst”, which spins in turn at varying speeds like a top connected to an electronic time machine. More sounds of nature lead to the secret garden and hidden menagerie of “Ropar Från En Avgrund” that is orchestrated into different restrained dance-inspired sequences. The trademark Bam Spacey rushes of electronic wave forms set the pensive tone on the tenebrous, “Sänka”, featuring the spectral-siren like vocals from Vanja Hultberg. Twisting the chronological sequence of time, 1998 closes with “Delar Av En Historia (2002)” that feels like the snow fall of a winter’s day, where every fallen flake strikes a keyboard bell to synthesize the sensation of excitement and exhilaration of one hundred holidays combined into one day—or at least one fleeting moment. In our continuing dispatches from Malmö, join us following the premiere album and read on for our latest interview with Bam Spacey’s Magnus Johansson.
You have talked to us recently, and explained the significance of 1998 being that it was the year of your “definite break-up with childhood, and the long, slow walk towards being an adult. A process that still seems eternal. It’s the year I turned 18…” Can you share some of these moments in 98 where you began to see things differently, or experiences from that year that had an impact on that shift for you?
Well, I guess that moment comes in everyone’s life, when you have to realize that you’re not a kid anymore, you really have to start taking care of your own life. I had a couple of pretty traumatic experiences as a kid, among them a divorce, and it was around this time, in 1998, that those experiences started to catch up to me. I tried to drown it all out in various ways, but ultimately, I had to face the memories head on, and everything went downhill for a while. Sound a bit tragic but what came out in the end was pretty positive. I don’t really want to spell stuff out, as I see the record as both personal but also very non-personal, I want to leave it open to people to interpret.
I’m also curious to hear too about you have described the album’s circulation being around the idea of everyone being made up from collections of memories, where you shared this philosophy that, “We aren’t different as humans, just born in different places and brought up to think in unique ways.” How did these ideas factor in during the creation of the album 1998, and how did these notions impact the music.
The idea is that we all share a lot of memories and experiences, it’s all about perspective. It’s kind of hard to explain, but I guess my point is that we are all shaped by the same memories, of love, loss and so on, just that we’ve experienced them in different ways. It’s definitely made an impact on the way the lyrics are written. They are somewhat vague, but still personal enough to make you feel that there’s a person who’s been through this. And you have too, but maybe you were at the other side of the experience, maybe you saw it differently. Putting it down in text like this makes it all sound pretty convoluted, but in my head it’s all very clear.
Also too as this is being one of your self-described ‘pop records,’ it feels like you have gathered up so many of the traits and tricks from your Ceremony Recordings output from Vi delar samma grav, Land, River, and maximized them for a larger audience. How all these different progressions of your sound work in this reverse, memory-based full-length, like 1998?
There is actually a pretty simple answer here, I just really wanted to make something that could pass for a pop record. I started writing songs that had a more accessible build, incorporating song structures more like a pop record. It wasn’t really the plan, it was just something that came naturally. I experimented a bit on those past releases, and felt I wanted to create something that said something in a more straight forward fashion. I wanted more melodies and more lyrics. It can be easy to hide behind washes and washes of ambient synths, this time I wanted the personal feel of the tracks shine through in the production as well. I don’t know, next time I’ll probably head in the totally opposite direction.
Time settings also factor into the experience, like from the head-space lifting opener, “Introduktion (Minne)”, to the closing, ” Delar Av En Historia (2002)”. How did you adapt these elements of time placement/displacement in conjunction with memory guided approaches?
That’s more of an aesthetic thing actually, I wanted the record to hold together, and feel like sort of a story, divided into 9 chapters. This was just a loosely based idea in the beginning, but it kind of stuck with me in producing of the LP. I’ve always been a fan of thematic records, where songs string together, and I wanted to create something similar, in the end it’s just not that apparent. But as the record is a connected story, even if loosely, it worked very well I think.
I like how things like natural field sourced samples blend into heady numbers like “Ropar Från En Avgrund”, to creating these darker, natural atmospheres like on “Samma Liv” and ” Sänka”. How did you fashion these sorts of environments?
I’m a big fan of ambient music, and I like using natural sounds to create an atmosphere. I’ve been digging around on the internet, and made some recordings myself, in an attempt to incorporate someone else’s memories into my own. Someone who’s been sitting around, just looking out over an Irish countryside, with a recording device in one hand. I wanted that person’s memories to blend in with mine. So it’s actually several layers on each ambient element that play together.
What new sound spaces and creative places has this memory method shown you, and how will it affect future Bam Spacey recordings?
I think it’s shown me that I can work with a vision in mind, and incorporate all these elements into one song. I don’t need to separate them, they all fill a space somewhere. Also, I’m usually doing a lot of different things in various tracks, so it was good to be able to make a record that holds together, that actually follows the same theme and production. I don’t know what that will bring in the future, everything’s a blank canvas at this time. But, knowing me, I’ll probably try something different next time. I like dark, depressive music so it’ll probably be more of that. Darkness and depression.
Bam Spacey’s 1998 is available now from Ceremony Recordings.