Friday, April 25, 2008

Resurrected by the Factory Floor...

Factory Floor - Francis Francis

Where's Paul Morley when you need him? I only ask, because I feel I should be injected with a dose of his meticulously crafted, often baffling, prose to do justice to my latest discovery. The clue is in the name, you see - Factory Floor. Tony Wilson would have adored them. It could easily be Manchester 1978, but it's not - this is the sound of London 2008. It's like the baton has finally been passed on. We've been promised the resurrection before - the post punk revival of not that long ago, that failed to deliver on so many levels. But this could well be it.

On the first side of the orange vinyl 7" (limited to 500), an aborted, twanging surf riff hangs bloodied and ravaged alongside a dark, abrasive bass rumble. The drums clank and spasmodically twitch - there's even what sounds like the remnants of the click track Stephen Morris used to follow when Joy Division played live. The vocalist adopts the morbid, baritone howl Ian Curtis modelled on ol' Blue Eyes himself. The sound is so incredibly authentic you start to believe Martin Hannett is back from the dead and up to his old spatial production tricks. Like the condition it is named after, 'Bipolar' is a song divided; its personality split between the initial jaw-dropping JD resurrection, and the incendiary conclusion, as sheets of white noise guitars assault your ears, the vocal howl is replaced by a blood-curdling scream and the drums move out of claustrophobic Hannett-territory into a future funk dimension - all propelled by the immense bassline that sends you hurtling towards the dancefloor.

Then, over on the flip, Factory Floor lob out a curve ball that forces you to reassess who are they are and why they are here. 'You Were Always Wrong' is an absurdist tale which appears to be about a paper boy killed in an arson attack on a newsagents (featuring the greatest opening line to a song I've heard for a long time - "In the spot where the halfwit's magazines were..."). The music is ramshackle early-Fall - all deconstructed, clanging riffs, a jarring bass, drums like an orderly tumble down the stairs, and the vocal delivered with an incredulous bark that Mark E. Smith would be proud of.

It's impossible to ignore the reference points, but it is important to state that this is so much more than just a band regurgitating what has gone before. Factory Floor aren't some shonky old tribute act - arty and cerebral / primal and raw in equal measure, this is a truly remarkable debut.

I'm not posting either of the songs available on the 7" - buy that, you owe it to youself. Instead, I have 'Francis Francis', an exclusive demo generously donated by the band. This is a brief but stunning amalgamation of all that I have mentioned above, but probably closer in spirit to 'Bipolar'. Propelled by krautrock rhythms, the vocal reminds me of Syd Barrett for some reason, and it all culminates with a classic Keith Levene riff, which splinters into jagged shards before the song, abruptly, ends.

'Bipolar' b/w 'You Were Always Right' is released by Outside Sound on Monday 28th April 2008. Purchase it from Norman Records
Factory Floor MySpace - check here for upcoming live dates and streaming of all songs.
Factory Floor website
Outside Sound MySpace


Thursday, April 17, 2008

We Haven't Done This For A While So It Might Be A Bit Weird

Ride - I Wanna Be Your Dog (Live)

I’ve been hunting high and low for this track for years, and am delighted to have finally tracked it down. I can remember my brother going to see Ride live in Oxford (Jericho Tavern, I think, a secret gig from 1991) and writing me a letter saying how fantastic they were, especially a mental cover of the Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ which they occasionally used to drop into their early live sets, and resurrected for that one night only. I was obscenely jealous – not only am I Ride’s biggest fan, but ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ is one of my favourite songs ever. That three-chord riff sends me bonkers and makes me want to go and smash shit up. Even now… So that combination of favourite band and favourite track with a little bit of brotherly envy lobbed into the mix means that I have always been gutted that I never saw them play it live, despite seeing them a few times. Being able to finally listen to it is perhaps a poor compromise, but it’ll do me for now. At least until they reform and I force them (at gunpoint if I have to) to play this for their encore. It’s only really worth listening to extremely loud, as it’s not the best recording. I think it’s Andy giving his vocal chords a proper Iggy-style workout, and at the end it dissolves into a right old mess. But I love it, and I’m sure my bro will too.

Ride - Eight Miles High
Ride - The Model
Ride - I Don't Want To Be A Soldier (Live)
Ride - Tomorrow Never Knows (Live)
Ride - Union City Blue

Ride recorded some really excellent cover versions throughout their career, almost enough to make a whole album. They recorded ‘Eight Miles High’ for an Imaginary Records compilation, ‘Through the Looking Glass’, in 1990. The Byrds were a huge influence on Ride, so this is a pretty faithful rendition really, with some additional squalling guitar noise. In some ways, their cover of Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model’ (for ‘Ruby Trax’, an album of covers to celebrate the NME’s 40th birthday) while brilliant, now feels like a missed opportunity. At the time, it was a novelty – Ride go synthpop! – but listening to it now, it’s a note for note reconstruction with only Mark’s vocal setting it apart from the original. Imagine how much more interesting it would have been if they’d tackled it as a four-piece guitar band. I guess it could have been dreadful, but I think the best covers the band did were when they stamped their identity onto a song. Take their fantastic version of John Lennon’s ‘I Don’t Want To Be A Solider’, recorded live at the Reading Festival in 1992. As Simon Cowell would say, they definitely “make the song their own”, with a lovely chunky Stevie Q bassline, and some fabulous guitar mangling from Andy and Mark. Love it. Perhaps not quite as good, but worth a listen anyway, is their cover of the Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. This was the song they used to climax all their early live sets in 1989 when they first started seriously gigging. Loz does a fine job on the best drums Ringo ever played, and it ends in a thrashing blaze of distorted riffing. Last, but by no means least, Ride covered Blondie’s ‘Union City Blue’, with Alex from Motorcycle Boy on vocals under the cunning pseudonym, Motorcycle Ride. It was originally given away on a cassette in ridiculously small quantities after a gig in 1989, but in 1993, Fierce Records in Swansea rescued it from obscurity and released it on a 7”. They don’t really mess around with the original too much, but it’s a lovely, lovely slice of dreamy guitar pop.

Marvellous Ride fansite
Ride MySpace
Official Ride website with links to buy their catalogue digitally


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Back Once Again With The Ill(ectronic) Behaviour

Fizzarum - Phut Of Flex

Various flavours of electronic goodness for you to feast on today, as I try to make up for nearly a month away with a mega post… Kicking things off are these four minutes of futuristic effervescence from the Russian duo of Dmitry Dubov and Dmitry Letahovskiy, recording as Fizzarum. 'Phut Of Flex' was released by City Centre Offices back in 1999, on clear 7" vinyl limited to 650 copies. To me, this is as close to perfection as you can get. The dense crunch of Autechre is married to a sublime melody so delicate it would crumble to dust if you so much as glanced at it the wrong way, all lovingly doused in fizz and crackle. Fizzarum were eventually signed up by Domino, who released a collection of all their limited singles in 2000 entitled 'Monochrome Plural'. The duo was acknowledged as the spearhead of a vaunted movement in Russian electronica, which included EU and the Art-Tek label. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really a movement - more of a minor twitch - and despite a handful of self-released albums, Fizzarum ceased to exist in 2004.

Fizzarum website
City Centre Offices website

Boom Bip - The Move

You can hear the seeds for Bryan 'Boom Bip' Hollon's recent John DeLorean concept album ‘Stainless Style’ (under the Neon Neon moniker, and in partnership with Gruff Rhys) in his second solo album 'Blue Eyed In The Red Room', released on Lex in 2005. A move from Cincinnati to Silver Lake, Los Angeles transformed Hollon from a producer of underground hip-hop, towards a shinier more expansive, pop electronic sound. Out went the jazz, the looped beats and samples, and the esoteric rappers; in came live instrumentation, poppy hooks and lovely vocals from Nina Nastasia. 'Blue Eyed...' also represented the first time Hollon worked with Gruff Rhys, on the mind-blowing psychedelic masterpiece 'Do's & Don'ts'. My favourite 'Blue Eyed...' track is the wonderful 'The Move', which is like an undiscovered New Order instrumental with added melodies by Vince Clarke, some delectable beat programming and a euphoric soft centre, which oozes joyous tunefulness like honey dripping from a beehive. Mmmmm, honey…

Boom Bip website
Boom Bip MySpace
Buy Boom Bip from Norman Records

Jega - Whore

Since Jega’s third album ‘Variance’ was leaked and subsequently shelved back in 2003, Manchester’s finest aural mentalist has gone very, very quiet. In fact, if you consider that his last ‘proper’ release was the ‘Geometry’ album of 2000, you could argue it’s been eight years since Dylan Nathan unleashed anything new, aside from the odd track for Planet µ comps. That makes the Roses seem prolific. Debuting for Skam in 1996 with the brutal yet brittle ‘Phlax EP’, Nathan continued to beguile with further recordings for Skam (the raw ‘Card Hore EP’ in ’97), and two albums for Planet µ- ‘98’s awesome ‘Spectrum’, and the aforementioned ‘Geometry’. I love Jega. As far as I am concerned, he is the grandmaster of balancing brutal breakbeats with subtle yet exquisite melodies. There are many examples of the maestro at work, but I’m posting ‘Whore’, his contribution to the ‘0161’ compilation, which came out on Skam in 1997. A Prodigy-esque break and a mutant sub-low bassline (currently enjoying something of a renaissance) are joined by some melodic niceness. Rumour has it he’s redoing ‘Variance’ as he was unhappy with how it sounded - if this is the case, get a move on son – we’re hungry.

Jega at Matador Records
Buy '0161' from Skam

The Marcia Blaine School For Girls - Still

What sort of music do you think a band called The Marcia Blaine School For Girls would make? When I first saw the name, I was imagining idiot American college punk a la Sum 41 or Bowling For Soup. But no, I couldn’t have been further from the truth – they actually knock out top quality electronic fare. A Glaswegian trio, they took their name from the fictional school of the 1961 novel and film, ‘The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie’, and last year’s long-player, ‘Halfway Into The Woods’, narrowly missed making it onto my end of year best of list, only dropping out owing to other quality Scot-tronica releases from Mosca and Rubens. The album mixed up all sorts of styles, from minimal gorgeousness, to Detroit-influenced techno and crunching mid-period Autechre. Or in the case of ‘Still’, what it might sound like if Underworld’s Karl Hyde got stuck in a malfunctioning power station that was playing host to a titanic lightsabre battle, as a mournful, folky vocal is enveloped by a cacophony of glitch. Marvellous.

The Marcia Blaine School For Girls website
Buy 'Halfway Into The Woods' from Norman Records
Marcia Blaine Industries MySpace

Wisp - Clipian

Finally on this monster missive, I’m sending big congratulations to Wisp aka Reid Dunn from Niagara Falls, NYC, who recently announced that he has signed to Rephlex Records for the release of his latest album ‘The Shimmering Hour’, due later on this year. Wisp was where I came in – my first blog post for Spoilt Victorian Child was a eulogy to Reid’s immense talents. Back then, he’d just released his first hard copy album (2005’s ‘NRTHNDR’ for the now defunct Sublight Records) after a string of MP3 releases of such stunningly high quality, my brain couldn’t fathom why he was giving them away for free and promptly fell out of my ear. Reid divided opinion across IDM messageboards, with some churlish sorts suggesting his gifts were all too close to an imitation of those artists he was obviously influenced by – the holy trinity of Aphex Twin, Autechre and Boards of Canada. It would seem that his signing to Rephlex is vindication for those of us who knew there was more to his talents than as a straight copyist with solid composition skills.

I’m posting ‘Clipian’ from ‘Honor Beats’, an 8-track mini-album released on Sublight in 2006. ‘Honor Beats’, with it’s heraldic-themed cover and J.R.R. Tolkien quote on the inner sleeve, outs Dunn’s barely concealed love for all things Middle Earth and Dungeons & Dragons. Luckily, the album stops short of being a ‘Lord Of The Rings’-themed love-in, despite the tumultuous opener ‘Beadumægen’ with its sampled hunting horns and medieval pipes (all mashed up with a killer amen, natch), and instead demonstrates his versatility and insane production talents. ‘Clipian’ starts off with an extended passage that doesn’t sound a million miles away from Aphex’s ‘Analord’ series, but soon grooves off into clattering breakcore territory, with a wondrous “sky-painted” melody and Nintendo bleeps. Not one to watch anymore, but perhaps the One to drag the electronic music scene, blinking and covered with cobwebs, out of the underground and back into the spotlight once again…

Download all Wisp's MP3 releases from the Wisp Archive
Wisp MySpace
Buy 'Honor Beats' from Boomkat


Friday, April 04, 2008

Magic Numbers

Apologies for the break in transmission. That thing called life has taken over for a while. But we're back, and here's a welcome return from long term contributor Dave...

Six By Seven – Eat Junk Become Junk
Six By Seven – What's Wrong With Understanding
Six By Seven – All My New Best Friends

I’ve never really liked numbers. Put a page of numerical figures in front of me and a chemical reaction ignites in my brain, resulting in mental narcolepsy. So from a young age I have done all I can to avoid numbers, and still do today. However, one notable exception is with the Nottingham-based band, Six By Seven*.

Ever since their first album, ‘The Things We Make’, was released in 1998, I have readily put aside my numerical differences and embraced their dark and brooding world of finely crafted space-rock - although I did think the track ‘88-92-96’ was taking the piss a little! Since then, a further five studio albums have followed, as well as a couple of compilations of unreleased material. The line-up of the band has fluctuated greatly throughout the years too, with the number of band members ranging from 3 to 5 depending on when and which album you are listening to. It's all a bit too complicated for me to go into who plays what when to be honest with you, and I’m sure this can all be found elsewhere. However, for all the personnel variations, record label changes, side projects and financial and emotional upheavals within the band, the sound, and soul, of Six By Seven remains constant throughout their excellent back catalogue. Each album has an anger and an intensity that I don’t find within the fabric of many other rock bands, and even when their direction takes a softer turn, it manages to do so keeping a dark integrity intact, without resorting to sounding like Embrace. Six By Seven have a reassuring menace about them, like the rumble of a late-night journey on the underground when you are the only passenger in the carriage.

I had planned to go into each album separately, from the angrier rock on ‘The Closer You Get’ and ‘The Way I Feel Today’, to the soaring efforts such as ‘Bochum (Light Up My Life)’ on ‘04’ and the immense ‘What’s Wrong With Understanding’ on the ‘Left Luggage At The Peveril Hotel’ compilation, but I don’t think Joe has enough bandwidth on his server. I wish I could post one song from each album as well, but trying to narrow it down is not an easy task. Numbers you see, always clouding the brain from making concise decisions. Frankly, I think no matter which Six By Seven album you get, you can count on it being quality. But if you want an easy introduction to the band, head straight for 'Any Colour So Long As It’s Black’, the Best Of album, recently released on Saturday Night, featuring some interesting song choices and ace remixes from the likes of Flaming Lips, Bloc Party, Ulrich Schnauss and Two Lone Swordsmen. Oh, and a DVD featuring most of their videos. All for a tenner! You can't go wrong...

*Other notable exceptions include MC5, The Jackson 5, Jurassic 5, Radio 4, Soul Brothers Six, 808 State and Spacemen 3.

Buy 'Any Colour So Long As It’s Black’ from Norman Records
New official website here
Six By Seven MySpace
Buy Six By Seven music here