Various - FAC. DANCE: Factory Records 12" Mixes & Rarities 1980–1987
Factory Records was always a label that put creativity before commerce, innovation before invoices, exemplified by the label’s biggest-selling 12", New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’, selling at a loss due to its high production costs.
That key moment isn’t on this new Strut compilation of Factory 12" mixes; instead, it looks at the label’s rarer extended highlights from 1980 to 1987. New Order do get a look-in, on the still-fantastic original version of ‘Confusion’ (for years unavailable in a digital format), but refreshingly it’s the influential likes of A Certain Ratio and Quango Quango who are given centre stage on this occasion.
Factory was seminal in linking moody post-punk to the excitable electro-funk emanating simultaneously from New York clubs like the Paradise Garage and Danceteria. Epitomised by Arthur Baker’s clattering production on ‘Confusion’, many early Factory releases saw tinkering from New York DJs and producers: Jellybean remixed 52nd Street’s ‘Cool As Ice’, while Mark Kamins gave Quango Quango and Marcel King extended club workouts. This cross-pollination continued off-record, with trans-Atlantic appearances for A Certain Ratio at the Paradise Garage and their one-time support act Madonna appearing at the opening of the Hacienda.
A Certain Ratio were perhaps the most seminal of all Factory’s acts. Portrayed in 24 Hour Party People as short-wearing, whistle-blowing funksters, ACR are arguably the missing link between the mutant funk of the early 80s and the murky grooves of the Happy Mondays. ‘Wild Party’ and ‘Knife Slits Water’ are prime examples of how to blend disco, funk and post-punk without turning beige.
While Section 25’s ‘Dirty Disco’ illustrates the shadow Joy Division cast over their Factory labelmates, their ‘Looking From A Hilltop’ saw the erstwhile post-punk band coming over all electro. The pulsating Megamix version, remixed by Bernard Sumner and ACR’s Donald Johnson, is arguably as key a release in Factory’s history as ‘Blue Monday’. Elsewhere, we see how varied the early Factory output was. Blurt mine No Wave-style freeform funk; X-O-Dus’s ‘See Them-A-Come’ was the label’s sole roots reggae excursion; and maverick producer Martin Hannett was the perfect foil for virtuoso Vini Reilly to plough his own furrow of guitar atmospherics with the Durutti Column.
Although in no way definitive (where is John Robie’s electro remix of Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Yashar’?), Fac. Dance is a fascinating and frequently brilliant summation of a fertile period that not only begat New Order and Madchester but also provided inspiration for leftfield labels like DFA and Output. Though it’s unlikely those labels ever gave a catalogue number to an egg timer.