The gradual transformation of Factory Floor's music into its crystalline present form has been fascinating to witness. All along, there's been a semi-visible backdrop of early UK post-punk, along with the trio's palpable appreciation of the frenzied, grinding corners of the no-wave period. The group's members have even worked with several prominent musicians in that realm, ranging from Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti (Throbbing Gristle/Chris & Cosey/Carter Tutti) to Stephen Morris (Joy Division/New Order) and Mark Stewart (The Pop Group). There's little resemblance, however, between the Mancunian post-punk homage documented on the band's earliest records and the fine-tuned, immense dance cuts Factory Floor is releasing today.
With its self-titled debut album, the group's attention to scrupulously sculpted drum tracks and deep, fully realized songs has resulted in something great. Factory Floor is, without a doubt, very dancefloor-oriented and in some ways is a bit more reined-in than the band's earlier releases. Its club readiness will be of little surprise to anyone who's heard Factory Floor's records in the last two years, particularly its singles for Optimo and DFA, but it's nonetheless a notable progression given how experimental the group has been at various times since its conception in the mid-2000s. Odd, noisy elements do pop up, but they're subservient to the establishment of the record's colossal rhythms. This is evident on the album's two lead-up singles, "Two Different Ways" and "Fall Back," both of which appear on the LP. The former, originally released all the way back in 2011, is intricate and thoroughly infectious; it's as irresistible now as it was two years ago. "Fall Back," meanwhile, might be the group's most brilliantly realized track, deftly weaving a panoply of drum sounds with Nik Colk Void's cold, alien-feeling vocals. Her voice, ordinarily distorted or augmented with reverb, is a terrific fit for the record in its slightly removed, serious delivery, which pairs very effectively with the group's alternately warm and intimidating modes.
Although conceived as an album, Factory Floor comes across as a collection of seven long-form club cuts, separated by three brief ambient interludes (titled "One," "Two," and "Three"). The entire record has a dry yet punchy production quality, giving a serrated edge to tracks that already sound huge. The drum production in particular can't be praised enough—the rhythm tracks really do sound great throughout the whole record. "Here Again," the album's second track, smashes together one particularly memorable rhythm with crisp synths, resulting in a tune that's both hypnotic and uplifting. "How You Say," meanwhile, employs copious upbeat dance rhythms but hits hardest on a purely textural level, unfurling its screeching, tightly wound synth track into the taut yet disciplined synths that introduce the next song, "Two Different Ways."
Everything feels just the right length on Factory Floor—the care and attention to detail that clearly went into this record are immediately apparent and easy to appreciate. Sure, many of the musical tropes the group is working with here could've been pulled straight out of the New York Noise playbook, but one can't really hold the derivative elements against the band when the end result is so compelling and fully enveloping. What the group has come up with on this LP may not be as bizarre as the outfit has sometimes been in the past, but it turns out that Factory Floor is pretty damn good at balancing accessibility and art. Factory Floor is really quite a solid dance record, not to mention the group's most coherent, hard-hitting statement yet. It's the record's craft that strikes first, and the subtleties that'll keep the listener intrigued on continued listens. Whether it's the muffled, unsettling synths that peer out from underneath the groove, the mannered and highly potent collision of seemingly incongruous drum patterns, or simply the masterful arrangement, it all adds up to make a record that's difficult to second-guess and lots of fun to unpack.