Thursday, December 22, 2011

Various – Fac. Dance: Factory Records 12" Mixes & Rarities 1980-1987 (Strut 2011)

Label head Tony Wilson conducted Factory Records with an uneasy cocktail of quixotic enthusiasm and loose purse strings. Wilson never signed any artist to a contract, and in 1982 he plunged a good deal of the profits into the new Hacienda club, whose low ticket and bar prices ended up costing the label 10,000 quid a month. The Hacienda, however, left an indelible mark on UK dance culture, proving that, yes, it's possible to be crowd-pleasing and forward-thinking at the same time. 

Bracketed between 1980 and 1987, this long-overdue collection of Factory's clubbier 12-inch outings—mixed and curated by Bill Brewster—takes us from the beginnings of New Order right up to the moment when groups like the Happy Mondays started absorbing Chicago house and Detroit techno and fusing it with red-eyed, psychedelic pop. As a result, what you get here is largely a collection of brilliant blueprints: transitional and exploratory tracks that reflect a kitchen-sink, tabula rasa production attitude. The influence of the label's infamous in-house producer Martin Hannett, who gave Joy Division its signature icy sound, is palpable, but it's grafted onto much groovier and funkier material. 

Ranging from dubby, experimental instrumentals like Hood's "Salvation" to sugary laser-boogie like "Express" and "Look into My Eyes" by 52nd Street, Factory's wild diversity is on full display. While it's an excellent overview, the "dance" term is sometimes only loosely applicable. Most of the comp is given over to DJ-friendly numbers from Quando Quango and Marcel King, but other offerings like Swamp Children's avant-jazz stronk " You've Got Me Beat" and The Durutti Column's kosmiche guitar bliss don't exactly come across like body-movers. 

Nonetheless, FAC. DANCE offers a number of revelations for hardcore fans, like the hallucinatory Beat-poetry spoken word vocals on "Art on 45," as well as several groundbreakers like Section 25's stunning, futuristic "Looking From a Hilltop," which takes a gritty synth-pop formula and runs it through a darkly psychedelic, Bambaataa-sized ghetto blaster. Like Joy Division, Section 25 segued from abrasive, doomy post-punk into dance music—their earlier classic "Dirty Disco" shows them already halfway there, with disco hi-hats and lyrics like "I want your body…I want your mind…." yelped over cavernous snares and guitar shred. The group's closest cohort was arguably A Certain Ratio, whose "Knife Slits Water" remains one of their finest moments and serves as the compilation's high point: When else did stewing eerie melodies and twisted effects into a groovy shuffle powered by slap bass and crunchy claps make quite as much sense as on Factory? *Strut

No comments:

Post a Comment