The year is 1997. Andrew Eldritch has been on strike from his estranged record label, East West, for seven years. Elsewhere, Peter Bellendir (formally of X-Mal Deutschland), has produced “a very perverse techno record” that happens to feature sampled vocals from Eldritch. Due to these sampled vocals, “East West bought the record (without having heard it) and agreed to release Andrew from his recording contract”. The Sisters celebrated with a tour and promised “the release of a stonking new Sisters single on the day after Mr Eldritch’s contract officially expires”. That single never came, but the SSV album did…
Go Figure, SSV’s only album, has been described as: “not the Sisters”, “Not Very Good”, and “designed merely to bore and annoy”. With this in mind, it seems somewhat bizarre that, on 24 October 1997, East West Records GmbH released a sampler CD (Nr. 22) containing three tracks from the then forthcoming SSV album, Go Figure. The album was scheduled to be released on 14 November, according to an advert in a French magazine, and was assigned the catalogue number: CD 3984-21260-2 YS. East West even prepared a two-page press release (featuring a typically outdated photo), some rather terrible album artwork, and sent promotional tapes to the press.
Presumably the label must have listened to the record at some point and eventually decided to pull the plug as the official release never saw the light of day. However, one of the press tapes “landed on the internet” and appears to have resulted in this bootleg (audibly transferred from cassette). In addition, very poor quality 128 kbps MP3 files of the whole album were shared here. These files seem to be digital in origin and probably came directly from the band judging from the website’s content. Curiously, further down that archived page, it is stated: “If downloading and/or storing the MP3 files is a problem, ask around for a copy on CDR (it’s an audio CD), it’s available for about $5”. In my unending hunt for all things lossless (even “really bad trance music”) I kept my eyes peeled until an eBay auction recently popped up featuring a CD that “was sent after requesting a download from The Sisters Of Mercy website in 1997”. After confirming this was indeed the aforementioned CDR, I purchased the disc (along with the promotional tape) in the hope that it contained a true lossless version of the album. From a technical standpoint – and, as it turns out, an aesthetic one – I wasn’t disappointed.
Having procured a complete set of the original 128 kbps MP3 file shares, I was ready to compare them with the CD. There are a number of ways one can check if the files contained on an audio CD do indeed come from a lossless source (rather than a lossy, i.e. MP3, one). The easiest way is to rip the CD to .wav files and use Trader’s Little Helper or Audiochecker to scan the resulting files to check that they are truly lossless. A more precise way is to load the .wav files into a spectrum analyser and look for the tell-tale signs of lossy compression (MP3 128 kbps has a frequency cut-off at 16 kHz).
I ripped the twenty year old CDR using dBpoweramp’s Secure Rip utility and ended up with bit-perfect .wav files which I tested in both TLH and Audiochecker. I also ripped the disc as one .wav file and loaded it up in Spek to view the full spectrogram. Both TLH and Audiochecker reported that the files appear to be CDDA with probability 100% (true lossless) and the spectrogram revealed a frequency response extending up to 20 kHz.
The volume of the tracks on the CD is very quiet, so I normalised the single .wav file to -0.1 dBFS, and re-exported the individual tracks using a cue sheet. Some of the tracks have silent portions at the beginning and end, and the overall sound is somewhat rough, indicating that these are probably finished mixes rather than final masters. Indeed, when one compares the songs from the CDR with the aforementioned East West sampler CD, it is clear that the same tracks on the sampler are audibly more polished.
Sisters Of Mercy aficionado, LG, kindly sent me a rip of the East West sampler, Nr. 22, so I was able to compare the “final masters” with my lossless CDR. The three tracks on the East West sampler differ slightly to the same tracks on the CDR, namely:
- They are mastered
- They are approximately 0.47 semitones higher in pitch and play slightly faster
- They exhibit DC offset
- Their polarity is reversed
It’s hard to tell whether the pitch and time anomalies on the East West sampler are intentional or not. I initially thought that my CDR was created from a malfunctioning source and the sampler must be ‘correct’, but my promotional tape runs at the same pitch and speed as my CDR, thus making the East West sampler the odd one out. Perhaps these three tracks are the ones that East West remixed, we’ll probably never know.
Here, then, finally, and for possibly the first time ever, you can enjoy Go Figure in all its uncompressed FLAC beauty. This CD came from the band in 1997 and is probably as close as we are going to get to that final Sisters album… “It’s really bad trance music … you’ll download it, anyway”.
SSV : Go Figure
- Music by P. Bellendir
- Words by T. Schroeder
- Produced by P. Bellendir in 1997
- Featuring amazing(ly) muted guest vocal samples courtesy of one Andrew Eldritch
- Released by no one in their right mind
- Knife, Paper, Stone & Guns
- Two In The Nose
- Bad Vultee
- High School
- Feel No Pain
- Go Figure
- Shut The Fuck Up