Immortalized in books and in at least one mildly popular biopic, Factory Records, the sooty, homegrown label of 1980s Manchester is the kind of musical Rosetta Stone consulted by young folks dabbling in the dark arts of post-punk. As is customary, these days, for any mythic-status but largely defunct record label, Strut Records, who have previously reissued companion volumes on Factory’s American cousin, ZE Records, are the executors of the Factory estate, producing a string of rarities compilations. There’s an irritating charm surrounding this tendency to worship and regurgitate the past, forcing even the genre superfan to wonder whether the impulse of the catalog handlers to repackage obscurities from a lesser-known label is all that profitable an enterprise.
The thing about folks who control the under-appreciated wealth of extinct record label catalogs is that they seldom know what treasure they’re sitting on. Often times, they don’t even care. The work of reissuers like Strut—mining another institution’s holdings for any discarded gem—can’t possibly originate from avarice, because there’s simply no fortune to be made from fifteen hundred DJs buying your comp. There is, however, the celebration of finding something worthwhile, and knowing that at least those fifteen hundred folks will freak out over it the same way you have. Even the most zealous record collectors have an uncontrollable desire to share their spoils, at the very least, by spinning them for you.
This is the second installment of the Factory Dance compilation series, highlighting the label’s departure from its industrially flavored, minimalist post-punk heritage in the face of an ever-influential club scene. There are as many innocuous misfires here as on the first volume—for instance, no matter how gorgeous Durutti Column’s chorus pedaling, they’re never going to be at home on a dance-music comp—but the infectious convergence of new wave and disco is a truly transformative subgenre meriting further excavation. For listeners who love Factory for their old guard: Joy Division, New Order, and Happy Mondays, these compilations reveal how expansive their roster actually was (meaning, in other words, you won’t find those groups here). The cuts on Factory Dance 02 are naturally a little deeper, most of the tracks are, for the most part, deliciously long 12-inch versions from certified dance bands like Quando Quango and A Certain Ratio. Even when the collection veers off the dancefloor (note aforementioned Durutti Column inclusion), the selections are choice—Kalima’s “Land of Dreams” is a jazzy orchestral track worthy of Sergio Mendes and moody new-wavers The Wake supply an incantatory synth slow-burner. The smirking final track is a too-cute atonal version of the early ’60s jukebox instrumental “Telstar,” the only release by the otherwise inappropriately named Ad Infinitum.
Whatever you prefer as a working definition of ’80s new wave, or whatever your loose affection for Factory Records, the second Factory Dance comp is a deserving study, capturing the frenetic time when the sounds of counter-culture were mutating from punk to four-on-the-floor beats, when disco was a credible form of self-expression, and the endless underground cobbling of experimental genres (lounge, reggae, no wave) was, at least to some of us, perhaps one of the most spellbinding musical moments in the last century.
Comp Label: http://www.strut-records.com/node/881
Artist Label: http://www.factoryrecords.net/