Most bands start with the album, but instead Factory Floor have spent five years stoking the anticipation, while cultivating contacts, cold calling their heroes, and releasing snippets of the most intriguing and visceral music around. Fabulously hard to track, Dominic Butler, Nik Coid and Gab Gurnsey have slid between raves and parties, festivals and gigs, a residency at the ICA, and collaborations with a very long list of influences, from Throbbing Gristle to New Order to Richard Kirk of Cabaret Voltaire. They even undermined their hard-earned credibility as merchants of industrial disco by collaborating with Peter Gordon on the very ambient ‘Beachcombing’. Above all Factory Floor have built a reputation as a remarkable live band, their 2012 Tate Tanks gig reportedly driving kids to tear off their clothes.
The band, who also give good quotes, helpfully sum up their philosophy: “Repetition is the platform for free thinking”. The result is bare wire electronic music – dance stripped back to its basic components of throbbing, repeating keyboard and drum beats, with occasional distorted vocals floating over the top. Of course, simplicity holds infinite variety, and Factory Floor owe a conceptual debt to minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Terry Riley, who introduced repetition into Western music. They also draw in an impressive range of electronic influences from radiophonic sounds to Chicago house. On the face of it their spare sound is aggressive and confrontational, a dark, primitive thrill. But at its best it sucks the listener in, locking them into a pulsing grid. This is music to get lost in, and not necessarily through choice.
However, leaving the album so long strongly suggests it this not their favourite medium. Factory Floor is inevitably a different experience to hearing the band live, and is unlikely to lead to wild frenzy. It is also some time since their sound emerged, and it no longer sounds quite as fresh as it did at the end of the last decade. The result lacks the manic edge of earlier tracks such as ‘Lying’ or ‘R E A L L O V E’, with some of the live excitement smoothed away, perhaps by production. It is easy to guess why Factory Floor held back on committing their reputation on an album, perhaps fearing they would lose something important.
Too much of Factory Floor could have been produced entirely in the studio, rather than created from scratch by a real band, which is definitely what makes them special. However, with expectations reset to ‘realistic’ Factory Floor is a high quality album. ‘Fall Back’ throbs like exploding popcorn, insistent and intimidating; ‘How You Say’ is like an Insectocutor turned up to maximum; and ‘Here Again’ claims to be a pop song, but its driving keyboards lack any element of compromise. Factory Floor may have set the bar too high for complete success to be possible, but their album will draw more listeners to their music and fuel their stage sound. Let us hope it’s the start, rather than the end, of something big.