Label Obscura/P572 reissue (swedish) Death Polka’s ‘Judith Judith’ tragedy concept album

(swedish) Death Polka
Photo: Marie-Andrée Gilbert
(swedish) Death Polka
Photo: Marie-Andrée Gilbert

Toronto’s Label Obscura and Quebec City’s P572 are proud to announce a joint reissue of (swedish) Death Polka’s 2006 album ‘Judith Judith’ on November 3rd. This concept album weaves the tale of an imaginary orphan girl named Judith killed in the real-life tragedies of the Quebec Bridge collapses, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of its rebuilding. Blending history with fiction, (swedish) Death Polka set Judith’s story to a backdrop of neo-classical music, spoken word vocals, and electronic pop.

Originally released on CD by P572 in 2006, this deluxe edition of ‘Judith Judith’ finds the album reissued on vinyl for the first time. The 12″ clear LP, limited to 275 hand-numbered copies, includes a poster, postcards, CD, download, and church pamphlet inspired fanzine featuring the piano score. Three alternate versions of the album are included with different track listings on the remastered CD, LP, and download.

(swedish) Death Polka Judith Judith cover

(swedish) Death Polka ‘Judith Judith’ track listing
1) Beginning
2) DJ
3) Mrs. Wellbanks
4) Death of a Doctor
5) Clandestine Fashion
6) Ruby Tea
7) 1995
8) Red and Fat
9) Red Red Operation
10) Schoolyard Symphony
11) Cold Blood, White Beds, Shiny Crown
12) Ending

(swedish) Death Polka’s Judith Judith will be released on November 3rd. The album is now available for preorder via Label Obscura and P572.

To celebrate this reissue of Judith Judith, (swedish) Death Polka will present a gallery show spotlighting the surrealist collage works of Paris-based cover artist Julien Pacaud on November 9th at Quebec City’s Les Trafiquants d’Art. Pacaud will be in attendance along with band members Sam Murdock and Guillaume Lizotte for a celebratory listening party.

In 1907, construction was underway for the longest cantilever bridge in the world, spanning nearly 1,000 meters across the lower Saint Lawrence River. Sadly, preliminary calculations for its riveted steel beams were never properly checked, and after four years of work, the weight of the bridge became far too heavy for its capacity.

Despite the fact that these structural issues were noted, construction continued. On August 29th of that year, the bridge’s south cantilever and anchor arms collapsed, killing 75 steelworkers. 33 of these men were Mohawk workers from the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal. Then, tragedy struck again on September 11th, 1916 when the bridge’s central section fell into the river, killing another 13 men.

100 years later, at a cost of $25 million dollars and 88 lives, the Quebec Bridge now includes three highway lanes, one rail line, and a pedestrian walkway. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1995, but (swedish) Death Polka have never forgotten its tragic origins. In 2006, the duo was inspired to tell the imaginary tale of Judith, an orphan killed by its 100-meter fall into the river.

“When the central part of the bridge collapsed, there were thousands of people on the shore watching it go up,” says singer Sam Murdock. “Almost 100 workers were trapped inside. It was low tide, so there was no way to get them out, but they sent a priest on a boat to give them absolution. That part of the bridge is still in the Saint Lawrence River, and at low tide you can see it. There’s even an urban myth that the iron ring worn by many Canadian engineers is made from steel salvaged from the collapse of 1907.”

The theatrical live shows of (swedish) Death Polka in churches throughout Quebec have found them accompanied by a choir, string quartet, or mysterious masked vocalist. Presenting the scores for each performance to audience members in the form of church pamphlet inspired zines, they invite anyone in the crowd to rise from their seats and sing along.

However, listening to ‘Judith Judith’ is a far more intimate experience. Murdock’s voice whispers in your ears like a ghost story podcast, while Lizotte provides the hair-raising cello, piano, and electronic soundtrack. In their shockingly accurate description, it’s like listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Yanqui U.X.O’. and Soft Cell’s ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ at the same time.

This edition of the album and its accompanying release party at Quebec City gallery Les Trafiquants d’Art on November 9th will also celebrate the visual contributions of Paris-based collage artist Julien Pacaud. He has created three new prints of the Quebec Bridge for this release, with postcards included with each record. As Murdock explains, this reissue of ‘Judith Judith’ is a celebration of the 100th year of the Quebec Bridge as much as the music and Pacaud’s art.

“Julien works for companies like Fuji and The New York Times but there’s no difference between his commissions and personal work,” Murdock says. “It all blends into this world he’s created alongside his own music and videos. He’s been making one collage per day for years, each of which has its own weird title, and his work has been copied so many times. He’s almost like the David Lynch of collages.”