It was the day Amy Winehouse died. I’d been to the first day of the I’ll Be Your Mirror festival at Alexandra Palace. Portishead had finished their headlining set and I was all set to head home. It had been a long day with sets from PJ Harvey and MF Doom.
Heading past the West Hall, I heard an electronic pulse. I was drawn in to see Factory Floor start their after-hours set. It was gripping, three people on stage with a fantastic light show playing something between a gig and a DJ set.
Since then I’ve followed the band. They’ve released two full-length albums, alongside numerous EPs and remixes. Working as a duo at present, Nik Void and Gabe Gurnsey, a third album is imminent, a soundtrack to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis which they’ve performed live at the Science Museum.
Just in advance of the soundtrack, Gurnsey has released Physical, his first solo album.
In some senses, Physical is a distillation of both dance and electronic music and Factory Floor’s own work into something more approachable. Having worked in London, Los Angeles and now Manchester, the record doesn’t hide its influences, be they Chicago House, UK Acid or Northern English electronica.
The latter is very prevalent with the likes of New Order and Cabaret Voltaire being obvious touchstones, particularly around the way that vocals, tunes and rhythm are integrated into something for the head, feet and heart simultaneously. Gurnsey has stated that there was a desire on his part to make this record more accessible and he has been successful in this regard.
Gurnsey is originally a drummer so the rhythm particularly is key, having taken inspiration from John Bonham pounding on his dad’s Led Zeppelin records. The records use of Gurnsey’s manipulated vocals makes the experience more human, despite them being electronically manipulated.
The intention of the LP is to capture a night out in the City of Angels. Opening with Ultra Clear Sound and You Can, the latter very much bringing to mind Microphonies-era Cabs with a funky strutting bass-line. Temazzy introduces the vocals of Matilda Morris in a woozy narcotic drift. The music is more fleshed out than Factory Floor’s normal output. In his day job, the tracks are often just beats and beeps, with work necessary on the listener’s behalf to fill in the gaps. Physical is less demanding, although occasionally is still abrasive such as Sweet Heat which has a sax part that brings to mind Bowie’s Neukoln.
The night moves on via Heavy Rubber (as so often is the case), with short interlude tracks such as In States, Version and the beautiful AM Crystal as we approach dawn. We’re cruising the LA streets in Night Track, like Ryan Gosling to the Cliff Martinez soundtrack in Drive.
The intention is to take the album on the road and Gurnsey has already signed up to support Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails in the autumn in the USA.
In the meantime, here’s some live footage of Factory Floor, which gives an insight into Gurnsey’s other work. That’s him behind the drum kit.
It’s another solid selection for 2018 from Rough Trade.