Why Factory Floor Are My Favourite Band, By John Doran
, June 29th, 2010 08:01
Even though most of their brilliance is still contained in potential, Factory Floor are one of the few bands to inspire John Doran to violent bloody endeavour
One note twice. Jump five tones. One note twice. Drop five tones. Repeat ad infinitum. It is a machine pulse, metronomic and precise, anchoring a tornado of chaos to the ground.
“Let's just have some fun
Let's tear this shit apart
Let's tear the fucking house apart
Let's tear our fucking bodies apart
But let's just have some fun”
’The Past Is A Grotesque Animal’ Of Montreal
A very long time ago I was sat drinking with work colleagues in a local. One by one they disappeared until it was just me and my friend left. Apropos of nothing (bar making me shut up perhaps) my friend said ‘Let’s have an exciting and dangerous affair.’ Taking my shocked, drunken silence as a yes my friend lent in and kissed me until there was blood in my mouth. Eventually my friend said: “Well, aren’t you going to say anything?” I said that my friend’s teeth were beautiful and that I would like to smash them all out and wear them round my neck on a gold chain. Suddenly, the spark went out of our affair after only 45 seconds. It’s always hard to know what to say in those circumstances. Young relationships are fragile and this one was already damaged beyond repair. We went our separate ways for the evening and it was never mentioned again.
There are wires coming out of boxes. Old synthesizers on stands. Pedals and circuitry looped together. The pulse builds until you can literally feel your hearing being destroyed. The music takes your body apart. The guitar is brutalized with a violin bow and fists. Colossal chunks of white noise fall about like breezeblocks.
There is enough potential energy in your eye teeth to rip apart everything terrestrial you’ve ever seen. The weight of your incisors multiplied by the universal constant squared. There is so much potential for destruction everywhere but none to be seen or heard. Most bands just suck the energy out of you and give nothing back. They effect a vampiric flow of energy in the wrong direction. There was a tendency amongst music writers in the 1990s to describe noisy music as coruscating, presumably with the scribes thinking that it meant emitting a cleansing racket or a beam of noise. Factory Floor actually are coruscating. The light pours out of them. The energy engulfs you.
Then the beat begins. Fishing hooks under muscle and sinew, you start to jerk and twist like a marionette.
”The meditatative states that have long been cultivated in Eastern traditions are often described as techniques for heightening consciousness. In fact they are ways of bypassing it. Drugs, fasting, divination and dance are only the most familiar examples… Subliminal perception – perception that occurs without conscious awareness – is not an anomaly but the norm. Most of what we perceive of the world comes not from conscious observation but from a continuous process of unconscious scanning: ‘Unconscious vision… [has] proved to be capable of …gathering more information than a conscious scrutiny lasting a hundred times longer … the undifferentiated structure of unconscious vision… displays scanning powers that are superior to conscious vision.’ These words were written by the psychoanalyst Anton Ehrenzweig in the course of developing a theory of art, but the sciences tell the same story.”
Straw Dogs, by John Gray
In real terms we are brain poor when it comes to the processing of psychedelic music. Our ability to uptake information is limited by a bottleneck caused by by our evolving rather than designed sensory apparatus. However, we are equipped to fill in the gaps ourselves. Factory Floor’s invasive and immersive volume and punishing use of analogue and digital noise overpowers the listener’s ability to accurately process songs like ‘Lying’ and ‘Wooden Box’. To experience these songs live properly is to hear things that aren’t even physically there. Ghostly voices, snatches of top end melody, unspeakable bass rumbles, fat and warm acid squelches. The energy flows out of them and into you firing up and overloading sensory apparatus in your brain. Combined with dancing and drugs or even standing concentrating and no drugs, this is a ritual means of temporary dislocation. But this is not divination; this is freedom from attempts at divination or the need thereof.
When playing the experimental/industrial Cosey Club at the ICA months ago, Factory Floor made full use of the brutal PA and the expert nous of their soundman Charlie. As well as the usual collection of stern-looking ladies in immaculate eyeliner, sinister-looking men in long leather coats, goths and art school people, were a big bunch of ravers. Suntanned and grinning with luminous white teeth, expensive football casual clothes and designer flat caps, they looked like men who had been awake for three days and who had really enjoyed almost all of it. Perhaps drawn in by the promise of a DJ set by Andrew Weatherall, they stood round unsure of the music for just the first two minutes. But one by one they broke into ecstatic dancing: box-making, testifying, saluting . . . raving. Unconcerned with the context, they understood implicitly that Factory Floor are a dance band first and foremost, whatever else they may be. Then men in long leather coats started breaking into jerky, militaristic dance manoeuvres and goths started throwing showy shapes. This music about dysfunction is truly functional if you want it to be.
”Is E=MC2 a sexed equation? Perhaps it is. Let us make the hypothesis that it is insofar as it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us. What seems to me to indicate the possible sexed nature of the equation is not directly its uses by nuclear weapons, rather it is having privileged what goes the fastest.”
Luce Irigaray on Newton’s Principia or, as she terms it, his “Rape Manual”
What starts as tragedy ends as farce.
What began as the ultimate failure of the student revolts in ’68 fed into an all-out, bitter assault on reason and language itself . . . Postmodernism, which was bred in continental salons before infecting university arts departments worldwide, eventually trickled down to become the LOL-damaged cuntery of feckless ironists wandering the streets of Shoreditch. This is the spirit of the times we live in. Nothing is serious. Everything must be accompanied by a nervous giggle. Nothing has any true meaning. To look for concrete meaning in art is to automatically misunderstand what it was made for. The tastemakers of this entire generation are tubby, coke-numbed, moustache-wearing simpletons dressed like Timmy Mallet. It is fitting that these people dress like clowns as they are the comic subplot to the Shakespearean tragedy of the multiple failures of Postmodernism.
“She won't need a gold chain
“sealed inside a wooden box
”dig a hole in the ground
”throw it in so it’s forgot.”
Wooden Box, by Factory Floor
Every criticism I ever hear of Factory Floor (sometimes by people I actually like and respect) say the same things: “I like this but it’s a bit pompous… a bit too serious isn’t it?” It is more than alright to be in a gothic, industrial, cold wave, minimal wave or stern band as long as you are doing so with a knowing detachment, as long as you are protected by the amniotic fluid of ironic distance. As long as you are concerned with making a fashion statement rather than primarily serious music, or, God forbid, art.
Factory Floor aren’t ironists. They take sandpaper to the smirks of those wearing boutique distressed T-shirts. They take glass paper to the status anxiety grins of grown men wearing brightly coloured, outsized baseball caps with the brim pointing to one side. They rub away until the flesh is removed from the face until there is nothing left but chattering teeth soaked in gore. Bloody teeth removed from the context of the body snarl. As the great painter Francis Bacon showed us, the atrocities of the Second World War removed the façade of humanity from us permanently. He removed strips of flesh from the faces of his subjects until bestial, snarling fangs were left. Useful only for tearing at flesh and nothing else.
When watching the trio at their harshest, such as their distressing performance at last year’s Offset festival, I realised that they had the power to wipe the smile off people’s faces. A few minutes in under a barrage of strobe lights, two people hit the deck. One frothing at the mouth and twitching like a dying animal. Normally I’d help someone having a fit as I've had them myself but in this instance, as they were wearing a trucker cap, I elected not to.
”I dream of wanting – and all I want seems to me worthless. Like a vandal corroded by melancholy, I proceed without a goal, self without a self, toward some unknown corner… in order to discover an abandoned god, a god who is his own atheist, and to fall asleep in the shadow of his last doubts and his last miracles.”
E.M. Cioran A Short History Of Decay
Factory Floor are a bracing proposition live but they do not make horrible or beastly music for people to pit their resistance or toughness against. As Stephen Morris pointed out on the Quietus yesterday, it reminds him more of Giorgio Morodor than any industrial assault on the senses. The music is not apocalyptic like some extreme metal, avant garde or noise – even though there is a sense in which this is end time music, in the way that all electronic amplified music is. There was a slow, gentle and analogue curve up to the production of this noise that lasted for a century. When it ends it will be abrupt, harsh and digital.
But there is extreme beauty here and now, created in the instant. No two of their gigs are the same. When they played Cargo with HTRK, it was not just one of the best gigs of that year but one of the best I’ve seen. The groups were like two sides of one coin. After a blizzard of noise and light came languid release. They created and ushered some beauty into the world. For a moment it was perfect. The terrible thing had not yet happened.
“Fucking Slayer rules. They’ll always rule. That’s just the way it is.”
Matt Pike, High On Fire/Sleep
There are three bands. The Fall, Slayer and Factory Floor. I would smash their teeth out and wear them on a gold chain round my neck. (There may be some more but I just can’t think who they are at the moment. It’s the heat. It’s playing havoc with me.)
Ice picture thanks to Dave Ma, stripes picture thanks to Emilie Bailey