Factory Floor 25 25

[DFA; 2016]

Styles: techno, post-industrial, acid
Others: Silent Servant, Container, Heatsick, The Knife

“Industrial music is a genre of experimental/electronic music that draws on transgressive and provocative themes.”
– Wikipedia

The Dirty

Factory Floor is more than just a cheeky moniker for a hardware-preoccupied duo (formerly trio) trading in stark beats, giving a subtle nod to production, consumption, and rock history; it’s the name of a new kind of dance floor and the place of a new kind of dancer, e.g. a naked person at the Tate Modern: the ecstatic pioneer of a deeply haute anxiety, bordering on the sublime. Where something dirty is introduced to a meticulously cleaned environment, and the tension spawned by their co-presence is resolved only in moments when the two seem to run together.

An unrestrained, peripheral intensity, like that of feedback, lies at the center of most aspects of Factory Floor’s practice. If I turn it up loud enough, I’m convinced most of the drum samples on 25 25 were recorded with a microphone pressed up against a dusty amplifier. The dust is audible. Those are the kinds of drum samples you have to work for, and hearing them is like seeing someone at a show who has bedhead in the mid-evening. Here, while repetition and control remain central themes and become perhaps even more central, the main reason those simple touchstones are so compelling is because they open like a window onto a weirdness that threatens their integrity.

A pulse lives below the surface. Bringing things on the surface to beat is, like sorcery, divine and dirty work.

The Clean

These days, as critics wrote after their eponymous debut, fans of Factory Floor who saw the group as a representative of industrial, EBM, or even darkwave to some broader, more eclectic scene have either adopted a revised perspective or disappeared. Nik Colk Void put down the guitar and picked up modular synthesis while making this record. Even the vocal solos and undanceable sound pieces that appear throughout 2013’s Factory Floor are passed up here in favor of what Void and collaborator Gabe Gurnsey have repeatedly called something more “playful,” where Void’s vocals are scaled back and married more deliberately to the pulsating drums. Those drums remain a faithful companion to the listener for all of 25 25’s 56 minutes, meaning it’ll be lost on an EBM kid or two for whom it’s indistinguishable from a bloghouse DJ mix or trendy running playlist. That’s OK. For Factory Floor, the purification of the mix plays an evidently more symbolic role than the first step in a monetization scheme.

Pared down to a simpler and more consistent — let’s say “more essential,” or even “cleaner” — assemblage, all of the little cuts start to look more like major incisions. There’s a surgical quality to this music. Anyone bothered by the care taken to ensure the sterility and the sharpness of the scalpel hasn’t seen the blood and guts yet.

The In-Between

Like a 2016 version of Moby’s “Go,” 25 25’s sixth track, “Ya,” plays pseudo-critically with signs of the relationships of domination accompanying the club encounter. Like Moby’s pop-electronica classic, this track uses a short vocal clip and a pulsating accumulation of acidic tension to balance an accepting with an imperative tone, the ecstatic with the ominous. While the Moby/Factory Floor comparison doesn’t extend much further than this, it’s worth adding that both acts represent a dancefloor-oriented response to the ethos and some of the sonic conventions of post-punk and industrial music.

The aesthetic upon which Factory Floor converge with their second DFA album is somewhere in between totalitarian and emancipatory. 25 25 is what happens when power adopts the critical posture. They’ve managed to wrap the menacing and the rewarding up in an air-conditioned pleasure circuit, beyond transgression and provocation; if Gurnsey and Void are still working with the tools of industrial music, they’ve begun using them in a way that represents a completed negotiation between the world-shattering demands of the avant-garde and the bourgeois comfort of creative tradition. The result is pretty radical.

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