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Thanks to it occurring on the same day as the country’s biggest spending cuts since World War II, there’s a grimly delicious sense of poetic justice floating around the Ruby Lounge tonight. The industrial minimalism of Factory Floor scourges through the heart of a bloated Topman-sponsored bill, the Londoners placed incongruously alongside latest Smiths-in-waiting The Heartbreaks, forgettable poseurs Hatcham Social and a hit-butchering Charlatans acoustic set.
The trio’s gaunt gazes are expressionless, at sharp odds with the day-glo bits of skirt and leery barrel-chested lads who’re shunning out the day’s unforgiving events with free booze and inane chatter. Their pitiless motorik thunders along in brutally direct opposition to the Technicolor lights and flashing logos the clothing manufacturers have bedecked the venue out in, seemingly becoming bleaker and harsher the brighter their surroundings become. Both in here and out there, our days of decadence have drawn to a chillingly swift close; bleak austerity is flooding in through every last crack.
There’s no brash announcement, no emblazoned entrance to the beginning of their set. As opposed to descending from the clouds, as most acts seem to view their own arrival, the band seem to emerge from the deep, the proceeding half hour before their appearance punctuated with ominous rumbles escaping from their dense web of wires and electronics. From this more structured noises eventually begin to emerge; crackles and drones, Nik Colk’s permeating vocals, dense showers of guitar sound. Then that relentless, unforgiving rhythm begins to flex its muscles; taut and lean, excess drained away to leave a menacing, bludgeoning force that clubs all before it.
This doesn’t just shape their set, this is the set; they don’t care for changes in tempo or too much textured embellishment. Instead they deal in dynamics, largely channelled through this cyclical pulse, which makes experiencing them more than a passively aural experience. It provokes a sensual reaction beyond the simple tangibility of words; perhaps the best way in which to describe it is that it hits you somewhere in the torso, the gut or midriff, but then it spreads to your limbs, separating them from rational thought functions and setting them loose with an unhinged abandon. It’s similar to dance music in that respect, but here that euphoric uncontrollability is mixed with something of a darker hue. This isn’t like an ecstatic leaving of the senses; they are very much still with you, but they’re being twisted and played with, mercilessly battered into submission. Like all experiences of a dark psyche though there’s a tremendous thrill to it, a sense of awe at the masterful way in which this vice-like hold grips your being.
They played this venue just a week previously, did Factory Floor. Then, their set ended chaotically, their electronic pulses beginning to flicker out only to whir back into action with the clock ticking at five minutes over time. The manager of O Children - due next on stage - dove in front of them, desperately wrenching the drumsticks out of percussionist Gabriel Gurnsey’s hands, fearful of the time or maybe just fearful of them - the group had just laid waste to the rest of the bill that evening with effortless ease. I didn’t stick around to see how the poor sods tried to follow them up that time, but tonight The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess is treading water with an acoustic set of his band’s hits falling on ears deftly whittled down to the skull. Even the normally cocksure front man seems affected his main support, there’s a numbness to his performance that results in even the likes of ‘North Country Boy’ and ‘Just When You Think Are Over’ suffering from half-hearted responses.
This is it with Factory Floor; they rarely connect with the entire audience - some tonight seem terrified, some are enthralled - but they always leave an impact that any ensuing act can’t hope to emulate, no matter how long or celebrated their back catalogue is. In times of unrest people either shelter away or become inspired; these are those times and Factory Floor have decided on the latter, providing 2010’s disturbing soundtrack in the process.
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