Various Artists
Fac. Dance
Factory Records 12" Mixes & Rarities 1980-1987


While Tony Wilson’s Manchester-based Factory record label is usually associated with Martin Hannett’s production, Peter Saville’s design, and bands like Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays, the imprint’s scope extended far beyond such hallmarks. As revealed on Fac. Dance, a new two-disk set focusing on dance mixes from Factory’s catalog of 12-inch singles released during its prime in the ’80s, the label’s breadth encompassed much more than just the post-punk aesthetics for which it’s often remembered.

The album leads off “Looking from a Hilltop (Megamix),” a club hit for Section 25 in 1984 that appeared in its original abbreviated form on the band’s From the Hip. Like contemporaries and labelmates New Order, Section 25 was adept at turning their pliable minimalism into electronically charged dance cuts. “Looking” courses with mammoth bass throbs while retaining a certain amount of artful evocativeness. The band is also represented with an earlier cut, “Dirty Disco” from their 1981 debut, Always Now. Here, the group’s post-punk roots are more evident, Larry Cassidy’s plaintive mumblings interspersed between cracking beats coated with industrial din.

In 1983, New Order teamed with New York DJ Arthur Baker, who had come off working with Afrika Bambaataa on “Planet Rock” the year before, to produce “Confusion,” which is represented here in its original 12-inch mix form. This collaboration and the subsequent infusion of electro-funk into New Order’s lexicon seemingly changed not only the band’s direction but that of Factory’s output. That tact is obvious on 52nd Street’s “Cool As Ice,” produced by New Order’s Bernard Sumner and remixed here by Jellybean Benitez. The Mancunian outfit’s 1983 single actually predated “Confusion” by a few months, as did “Look Into My Eyes,” the band’s first release for Factory from 1982 also included here.

It seems fitting that Strut has chosen to release this collection as it feels almost like a companion piece to the Ze Records compendium it issued a couple years ago. Indeed, Factory at this point in time was influenced just as much by what was going on in New York as what was happening in its own backyard, though it seems many in Manchester had similar interests. Cuts by Quando Quango and Marcel King, who had gotten his start as a member of Sweet Senation, a Manchester soul group in the ’70s, are about as far away from Joy Division’s doom and gloom as one can get. And while some tracks here seem time-stamped, there’s plenty that are as innovative as anything else released by the label. In fact, if one takes a look at the label’s discography, this comp is particularly representative. Moreover, such output makes the label’s ownership of a dance club (The Hacienda) more understandable. Factory’s legacy isn’t based upon 12-inch dance remixes, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been.
Stephen Slaybaugh