Various Artists - Fac. Dance 02: Factory Records 12" Mixes & Rarities 1980-1987 - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Various Artists - Fac. Dance 02: Factory Records 12" Mixes & Rarities 1980-1987

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2012-09-03

Following its successful curating of the Factory Records' releases which made a significant contribution to dance music's evolution during the 80s, Strut has dug out some of the label's more esoteric grooves for this second compilation. Since Fac Dance 01 was itself a pretty diverse set, ranging from post-punk to reggae, soul and early techno, the emphasis this time around is on the more experimental sounds Factory put out.

Fans of Strut's excellent Disco Not Disco compilations will find themselves immediately at home among the grooves here. James Nice of LTM and Factory Records Limited has put together what sounds like the set-list for the coolest DJ set ever. You might not feel like dancing to everything he plays, but you'll certainly be impressed, and pestering the DJ to find out what that tune is.

The compilation is divided between fairly typical, late-70s/early-80s post-punk sounds and other choices from a diverse, sometimes surprising range of genres. In the former camp we have A Certain Ratio, whose 'The Fox' opens proceedings. ACR definitely deserve kudos for being one of the first bands to branch out from dour post-punk alienation into something warmer and funkier, but 'The Fox' doesn't quite manage to get these two poles to meet. It sounds like Ian Curtis mumbling over a rudimentary KC & the Sunshine Band backing track. However, there's some great percussion on show. The band's second track on the compilation, 'Lucinda', is tighter, slicker and more focussed, while the excellent dub workout 'Sommadub' (recorded by ACR but released under the name of Sir Horatio as a limited dub-plate) demonstrates what a scintillating lightness-of-touch they developed.

Less impressive is 'You Hurt Me' by Berlin's Shark Vegas, a rubbish Depeche Mode rip-off with ugly transatlantic accents (and, surprisingly, Bernard Sumner on guitar and production duties), and Section 25's 'Knew Noise', an artless facsimile of PiL's sound circa Metal Box. The latter do much better on the squelchy 'Sakura', which recalls New Order's 'Everything's Gone Green' in sounding like it's made by a band who don't understand or have full control of the thrilling noise they're creating, but are just pleased to let it exist and unfold. Elsewhere, the glorious ESG are well represented by the funky, minimalist 'Moody' and the more, er, moody 'You're No Good', a soul record which sounds like it's being played by tweenagers on a street corner. That's a good thing. As is Anna Domino's classy, pop-smart 'Take That'; a genuine forgotten treasure.

At the stranger end of the spectrum we have Ad Infinitum's 'Telstar' which, appropriately, sounds like New Order in imperial pop mode playing the early 60s proto-synth classic. It's totally unnecessary, but quite loveable. As is the quite astonishing and wonderfully named 'Meat Mask Separatist' by Biting Tongues, which mixes Liquid Liquid-style mutant disco with ambient synth drones that predict The Orb and full-throated jazz and funk brass. Which all makes for an incredible, heavenly five minutes.

Sticking with jazz, Kalima's 'Land of Dreams' has a cool Latin vibe, while Quando Quango's 12in mix of 'Go Exciting' sounds like an even funkier, jazzier version of The Slits and is thus utterly amazing. Again, existing at an absolute extreme to that, The Royal Family & the Poor's 'Vaneigem Mix' is one of the most extraordinary things on here. It's six-plus minutes of lurching, searing, churning post-punk noise, over which a man who sounds remarkably like Alan Rickman rants about "the bourgeois revolution" with plenty of apocalyptic imagery. It has to be heard to be believed.

'In Movimento' by Surprize is like a desolate, semi-comatose Scritti Politti, which is not a bad sound; Swamp Children's 'Softly Saying Goodbye' manages to play with MOR while sounding ridiculously funky and a little unhinged; Fadela's 'N'sel Fik', meanwhile, is an intoxicating piece of rai (a form of folk music which originated in Oran, Algeria, genre fans!) which incorporates spine-tingling synth sounds into its twanging groove.

Elsewhere, Thick Pigeon's 'Babcock + Wilcox' is ESG sugar-coated in acid; 'Host' by The Wake is actually (gasp) quite proggy, very long and, unfortunately, also not very good; 'X-o-dus' 'Society' is a worthy slice of dub reggae lumbered with some guitar heroics which put one in mind of Eric Clapton's cover of 'I Shot the Sheriff' (never a good look in the post-punk years... Or ever, actually). Somehow feeling as if it ties all these disparate strands together is 'Self Portrait' by The Durutti Column, a typically lovely piece of ambient music blessed by Vini Reilly's fluid, quicksilver guitar.

The track which most accurately points to what would be dance music's future here is 52nd Street's super-confident 'Can't Afford', an irresistible confection of pounding, studio-made beats, cut-up vocals, samples of the talking clock and various mixing desk tricks. Midway through, a rapper launches into some rather stilted rhymes, but no matter. From here you can see a clear path from the likes of Paul Hardcastle, The Pet Shops Boys and S Express onward to late-80s house and the dawn of the mainstream super-club experience. All the polyrhythmic drumming and genre blending the post-punkers could muster couldn't beat a sound this streetwise and genuinely multi-ethnic and multi-cultural.

From this distance, however, we can just enjoy another cracking compilation from Strut and take one more opportunity, should it be required, to appreciate what a truly remarkable, forward-looking and bloody brave label Factory was. Could we ever see its like again?

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