mon 18/12/2017

Fac Dance: Celebrating the Beat of Factory Records | reviews, news & interviews

Fac.Dance: Celebrating the Beat of Factory Records

Fac.Dance: Celebrating the Beat of Factory Records

Factory's forays onto the dance floor

'Fac.Dance': showing that Factory was more open than sections of the audience and the music press

New Order’s “Blue Monday” might be the bestselling 12” single ever. It might not be. Either way, Factory Records released it on the 12” format only and it was given dry runs by club DJs. Although Factory had an overriding visual aesthetic, it was a wilful label with little musical coherence and no set way of doing things. Dance music, though, was central to Factory, and the new compilation Fac.Dance celebrates that in a way that was impossible in the scattershot Eighties.

Fac.Dance collects 24 tracks issued between 1980 and 1987. Most were originally heard on 12” singles and were either remixes, specially made for the longer format, or tracks recorded with the extending running time in mind. There’s a minority of cuts from other sources: Minny Pops’s “Time” was a 7”, The Durutti Column’s “For Belgian Friends” and Blurt’s “Puppeteer” are drawn from the Factory Quartet double album, Section 25’s “Dirty Disco” is from the album Always Now and Shark Vegas’s “Pretenders of Love” was originally on a US-only Factory comp album.

Listen to Shark Vegas’s “Pretenders of Love”

A compilation this free-ranging might lack coherence, but instead it is a cohesive listen, imposing a shape on a release schedule overshadowed by the activities of Factory’s big hitter, New Order. Less of a rewrite of history, Fac.Dance is an interpretation that could only have been made with hindsight. The bulk of what’s compiled here challenged prevailing orthodoxies. Seeing 52nd Street supporting New Order at Kilburn in 1982 made no sense. A funk-soul band playing with the glacial gods of cool? It didn’t compute.

Factory was more open than sections of the audience and the music press. Ted Milton’s sax-skronk with Blurt sounds perfectly at home beside Section 25’s ahead-of-the-curve album track “Dirty Disco” and the Dennis Bovell-produced reggae-with-a-touch-of-soul “See Them a-Come” by X-O-Dus. Marcel King had been the singer in glossy Seventies chart soul band Sweet Sensation. His “Reach for Love” sounds like a hit that should have been. Pre-Happy Mondays, pre-24 Hour Party People, nobody was going to score hits with these records though. Factory achieved that with hardly any of its releases.

Marin Hannett, the producer most identified with Factory, is here. But it’s the extraordinary joint productions by New Order’s Bernard Sumner and A Certain Ratio's Donald Johnson (whose brother was in 52nd Street) that make a damn strong case for them being one of the Eighties' great studio teams. They're behind Section 25’s “Looking From a Hilltop (Megamix)”, King’s “Reach for Love” and Abecedarians’s charming and sub-New Order “Smiling Monarchs”.

Listen to Abecedarian's "Smiling Monarchs"

New Order had first been in New York in 1980 and Factory opened the Haçienda in 1982, events establishing and then cementing the label’s (and the city’s) ties with new styles of American dance music the moment they emerged. Factory’s take was dryer, more clipped than what came from New York, even when in the hands of US mixers/producers like Arthur Baker, John Benitez or Mark Kamins (all heard here). Now, it’s possible to discern this sound.

Which perhaps explains why local acts like 808 State or A Guy Called Gerald didn’t end up on Factory. That, and label director Tony Wilson’s snobbery about dance music. Even so, Factory issued an awful lot of music aimed straight at the dance floor. Fac.Dance contains some great, essential music, but it’s also about contrariness and contradiction.

Listen to Section 25’s “Looking From a Hilltop (Megamix)”

 

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