"Did it feel like you were going to fall on the ground?" On paper (or screen, even) there's a level of concern to the question. But in the mouth of Factory Floor singer-guitarist Nik Colk Void during "Fall Back," a seven-and-a-half-minute acid banger at the heart of the London trio's debut album, it exudes a seductive air of braggadocio.
While the band counts Joy Division/New Order's Stephen Morris and Throbbing Gristle's Chris Carter as early fans and collaborators, Factory Floor's self-possession springs from something more primal: the almost-animal magnetism that flows between Colk Void, drummer Gabe Gurnsey and synth player Dominic Butler. Threads can be traced to post-industrial, disco and acid, but it's the performers' sheer conviction to frisson that startles. Theirs is industrious music, enslaved to repetition, but it also heaves with harsh funk that makes sense to the fragility of the body: flesh, bones, sinewy muscle and all. Refreshingly devoid of polish, they find human rawness in machine music — and, in doing so, emphasize the base mechanical aspect of being alive.
It was the unapologetic urgency of their early singles, including 2010's "Wooden Box" and 2011's "Two Different Ways" (the latter of which makes a visceral appearance on the album), that first knocked people off their feet. A former colleague, texting from a live gig, once said he'd die for them. The heat of the moment might have gotten to him, but the emotion was pure.
While there's plenty to get melodramatic about on Factory Floor's self-titled debut, out Sept. 10 in the U.S., there's also much that surprises. At a time when noise bands look to techno and dance music is obsessed with bass, Factory Floor retreats ever further into brutal simplicity. The album-opening "Turn It Up" is as sparse as they come — drums, high hat, vocoder-enhanced vocal snatches — but its tone is organic, like the warm, elastic patter of skin on (animal) skin. Elsewhere, "Here Again" evokes sweat flying off jerking bodies on a pitch-black dance floor, while even the relentless "How You Say" has innate sensuality to it.
The group members' real skill lies in their handling of sound: No matter how hard they pummel, each stroke feels tenderly intended. Factory Floor is deadly serious about having fun, but the release it facilitates comes at the cost of submission to its unblinking rhythm. Blink and you'll miss it.
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