Factory Floor: 'Factory Floor' album review
There’s a common misconception that making dance music is easy – one that’s not helped by wunderkind producers (Disclosure, Happa, Bondax, Blawan) cranking out hits on Ableton before they’re out of their teens. Yes, sometimes a good idea can become a song before you can say ‘export to iTunes’, but other times you’ve got to fight to bring an idea into the world, investing every inch of your musical energy into preserving the essential force of a pure hook or a devastating drum beat.
Factory Floor are hugely talented, but they’re also grafters – capable of six-hour studio stints listening to the same rhythms over and and over, in order to figure out how they work. The three-piece – comprising Gabe Gurnsey, Dom Butler and Nik Void – are London art school graduates who’ve left behind the worlds of sculpture, installation and sound art in order to pick up synths, samplers and drum sticks, and bash out musical statements of hypnotic intensity.
Their process sounds exhausting, but the effort has been entirely worthwhile. This self-titled debut album is captivating from start to finish, visceral in the extreme, and absolutely packed with the sort of bubbling, synthesised hooks that grab you by the disco balls and don’t let go. Opener ‘Turn It Up’ comes across like a wild, Detroit-era techno classic, souped-up with bongos, and made arty by Void’s gloomy vocals. Her snippets of lyrics flit in and out of the mix on this track, and across the album as a whole, adding a trance-like quality to ‘Fall Back’ (a simply awesome avant-techno monster) and a human element to the fax machine-esque ‘How You Say’.
The other constant is disco, particularly the informed, motorik sound pioneered James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) whose DFA label Factory Floor are signed to. Don’t think for a second that this album is driving anywhere near the Daft Punk bandwagon, however. It’s taking it’s own very unique route through music history – one which deviates through the industrial sounds of ’80s north of England bands like Cabaret Voltaire and Chris & Cosey, before arriving back into the fuss and thrust of present day London.
If there’s any criticism, it’s that the band have self-censored a little too much. In stripping away everything but the kernels of brilliance that make up their songs they’ve sometimes sacrificed richness in favour of artistic purity. The brilliant ‘Real Love’ – an earlier, more house-y single – didn’t make the track list for example, due to the band having ‘overworked it to shit’ according to Gurnsey.
Factory Floor have almost achieved perfection with this record, but, in being so stubborn about what they create, they’ve ventured slightly into the territory of art experimentation, which is a slight shame for those who just want to dance. Still, it’s a debut that’s been engineered with machine-like precision, that can sit comfortably alongside the best work of the band’s musical idols. It’s excellent, in other words – now maybe now they can take a break.