Various Artists - Fac Dance - Factory Records: 12” Mixes & Rarities 1980-1987

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2011-10-24

Strut has done sterling work to revive interest in mutant disco in recent years, giving us an excellent collection of ZE Records' funky, experimental output as well as their seminal Disco Not Disco compilations. This two-CD anthology of 12in remixes released by Factory Records between 1980 and '87 makes plain how the legendary label strove, successfully, to bring the chic and sexy disco vibes on downtown NY to post-punk Manchester, laying the groundwork for that city's early adoption of acid house and techno.

If you're a Factory affectionado there's plenty here to make this a must-have purchase: extended mixes of cuts by New Order, Quando Quango, Section 25, A Certain Ratio and Durutti Column, plus a sleeve by Peter Saville (a witty silhouette of a factory, reminding us of what was, for many, the backdrop to their discovery of dance Nirvana). Compiled by Bill Brewster, this is a whistle-stop tour of sounds which were vital in the early 80s and continue to exert influence: we get no wave funk on 'Puppeteer' by Blurt, one of the most incendiary tracks here; smooth, super-confident soul from 52nd Street on 'Express'; even some reggae and dub in the form of X-O-Dus' 'See Them-A-Come'.

The inclusion of two Section 25 tracks neatly illustrates both dance music's evolution and Factory's place at its heart. 'Dirty Disco' is looping PiL-style post-punk, its deep, dubby bass and whiplash drums demonstrating how many bands of the era incorporated dance rhythms into their music. The eight minute megamix of 'Looking From a Hilltop', meanwhile, is a fizzing, popping slice of early techno, it's cattle-prod beats and spacey, backwards effects soundtracking urban alienation as astutely as punk did. By contrast, Jellybean's mix of 52nd Street's 'Cool as Ice' presents inner-city clubbing as exotic and sensual, a slick, propulsive backdrop for nascent club-kids everywhere.

It's not all bangers, unfortunately. Quando Quango's boorish, insipid 'Love Tempo' shows what happens when people who have no business on the dancefloor try to make dance music. Listening to it, you suddenly understand how Spandau Ballet was allowed to happen. The original 12in mix of New Order's 'Confusion', meanwhile, is massively disappointing, sounding lazy and, ahem, confused in comparison to the tighter cuts on here. Plus, Bernard Sumner sounds completely wasted, which, in fairness, he may well have been.

However, these little blips shouldn't be enough to put off anyone serious about collecting music from this era. Even on the tracks which don't work, the excitement these musicians felt at the sonic possibilities opening before them remains palpable all these years later. Plus, the opportunity to discover something as beautiful and timeless and The Durutti Column's lilting 'Madeleine' means this compilation is for the most part an absolute pleasure.

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