The second in Strut’s survey of Factory Records’
dance-electronic side goes deeper into the well of early 1980s
dub-funk-world-punk, revisiting Fac.
Dance 01 favorites like A Certain
Ratio, Durutti Column, ESG and 52nd Street and branching out into
the wilder, southern-hemisphere-sampling hybrids like Fadela and X-O-Dus.
The material comes from the first half of the
1980s, the same period during which most of
Joy Division reformed as New Order and established it dark, dance-oriented
new sound. Yet at the same time, lots of other loosely aligned bands were attempting the same alchemy, splicing the knotty, twitchy
dissonance of post-punk to sinuous, body-moving grooves. Consider the Wake’s
1983 “The Host,” a knife-edge blend of shudder and sigh, dark blasts of
synthesizer flaring up from a sensualist’s bedrock of bass and drums (that’s
Bobby Gillespie, pre-Jesus & Mary Chain, on drums), and Caesar McInulty
murmuring alienated phrases over. It is
nearly eight minutes long, an endless, hypnotic, hip-centric groove that has
just enough punk disaffection to give it bite.
02 rummages through the catalogue, pulling Factory mainstay, A Certain Ratio’s
very first single, “The Fox” out of the pile, its skeletal polyrhythms (kit,
bells, timbales, bass) slashed and sketched, its vocals hollow, untouchable,
remote. “The Fox,” like a good many of other cuts from this compilation was
produced by Martin Hannett (i.e., the
guy who shaped Joy Division’s eerie,
drum-heavy sounds and produced New Order’s Movement in 1981). In fact, most of the cuts on
this album can be connected, six-degrees -style (or in most cases, one- or
two-degrees style). Bernard Sumner co-produced and played guitar on Shark
Vegas’ “You Hurt Me.” A Certain Ratio toured with New Order and spawned Quando Quango. Indeed, you get the sense of a big,
loosely connected family, all lurching and spasming towards a globally
expansive, funk-permeated, socially-conscious dance sound.
The most interesting cuts are the ones that push
the farthest away from post punk, the bubbling dub of Sir Horatio’s “Sommadub,”
the bone-chilling keening of Fadela’s rai-centered “N’sel Fik,” the
machine-tooled precision of Minny Pops’ Krautish “Blue Roses.”
While the innate physicality of dance music
makes it harder to get political, there are a few nods to the Situationist
fervor that tangled politics with art in other parts of the Factory family.
Royal and the Poor’s “Vaneigam Mix”
takes its name from the Belgian theoretician Raoul Vaneigam, author of
Situationist source text The Revolution in Everyday Life. Durutti Column, here represented by the
slinky, jazz-touched “Self-Portrait”, also got its name from a Situationist
figure. Even the most hedonistic tracks here have a certain amount of
intellectual rigor, a post-modern wariness of mass media and consumerism . These songs came out only a couple of years
before Madonna’s “Material Girl,” but from an entirely different, entirely more
serious and idealistic place.
And in fact, the songs on Fac. Dance 02 are probably a little too complicated, too twistily
syncopated, too multi-culturally omnivorous and cerebral to be especially good
for parties. This is no backdrop for
mindless bliss, more a soundtrack for mindful engagement. But you can still dance to it.
DOWNLOAD: “N’sel Fik” “The Fox”
“The Host” –JENNIFER KELLY