4th July 2014
And so with some pleasure I share with you, my audiophile friends, the latest release from Factory Acts.
Factory Acts are a Salford-based post-punk dark-electro duo. They are SoS (aka Sușán Ó Sé) on vocals, synths and analogue digital devices, and Matt Davies covering bass, beats and magic mixes. The duo was born following the accidental creation of a new sound, and a hastily written two song instrumental debut at Salford Lad’s Club. They hit the local gig circuit in 2012 self-releasing two singles, ‘Senseless’ and ‘Fantasy’, both of which have received repeated air play on BBC Introducing Manchester, Ireland’s 2FM, Salford City Radio and numerous internet stations worldwide, and indeed on my podcasts. Since then they have performed live from Manchester to Doncaster, from Leeds to London, taking in Cork on the way. Factory Acts has played the Salford Music Festival, headlined the ‘Pussy-Whipped’ festival in Edinburgh, and played alongside bands such as Manchester legends Kill Pretty, plus Vile Electrodes, Tom Hingley, Ste McCabe, Naevus, The Witch Hunt, and the Jan Doyle Band to name but a few.
Two years after their live debut, Factory Acts release their first EP, Thirst, on 4th July 2014 via Manchester- based independent label AnalogueTrash Records. Featuring four stand-out tracks of analogue-electronics that combine SoS’s esoteric and haunting vocals with the pulsating, otherworldly beats and rhythms of Matt Davies. Having been with the band from the first release, and also having seen them twice live I can attest to their unique qualities, fascinating sound and visually stunning mise en scene experience.
The new EP moves the band on from the measured chill wave of their early releases to a more up-beat approach which employs more of a motorik/kosmische feel. The key elements are Matt’s excellent bass work, and Susan’s laminal orchestral synthesis, overlaid with glitchy and visceral sounds, and importantly her memorable vocal style. Lead track “Thirst” is a sultry little number with insistent beats and rhythms and probably the most subtle anti-fracking message I’ve heard – glorious arpeggiating rhythms drive the tune and above all it leaves you wanting more. “Car Crash” kicks in with more arpeggios and then floats into Ralf und Florian territory, albeit with dreamy double tracked vocals – the tune effectively merges post-punk sensibilities (a busy bass line) with the best of electronica. “Flight” ups the tempo further, strips back the synths, and builds around descending motifs – an instrumental, the tune develops organically adding varying parts to create a funky experience with a motorik surge. “Animal Spirits” harks back to the duo’s original releases, has been previously released, and perhaps best illustrates both the capabilities and potental of the group – there’s an other worldly quality to their sound which sets them apart from mere genre pigeon holes.
I took the time to ask the duo some questions regarding the release:
Where was the EP recorded?
It was very much DIY, recorded at home, with the vocals sung in between the barking of dogs and the shouting of neighbours outside the front window! Also mixed by us at home in sections in between busy work schedules. And the magic touch provided by Owen J of Tingle in the Netherlands in his makeshift home recording studio. It’s a miracle we put together in the limited time we had but I guess that does focus the mind somewhat.
Are you planning an album?
We have enough tracks for an album and the EP is, to use Fall-speak an ‘Interim’ (though hopefully not a ‘Remainderer’). We have tracks that we have been playing live for nearly two years which we still have not committed to a studio format. The version of “Animal Spirits” is an updated version of one we released last year, with a bit of tweaking, and additional noises. We are looking forward to be able to get some jamming time as that is where the best ideas come from. Our song, “Americans with Guns”, which is usually well received live, was composed mainly on Xmas Day 2012 after an overdose of mince pies and sherry. It doesn’t take long to write songs but ages to get them in a releasable format.
You are supporting Kill Pretty in Oldham at Bank Top Tavern on June 28th and you are launching the EP at the Eagle Inn, Salford on 5th July – any other gigs planned?
Yes! We are at The Castle, Oldham Street with NINA and U.V. as part of Eclectica on August 1st, the following day we are part of an all-dayer at the Kings Arms in Salford. On August 24th are at Bangkok Bar & Restaurant, Princess Street at an event called “Queer We Are ” which is a Pride Fringe Event, and we have registered for the Salford Music Festival in October. Hopefully we will playing Ireland again as our gig at Crane Lane was a great success when we played in April. We’re always up for playing outside Manchester too, so we are open to invitations.
There is more of a motorik/kosmiche feel to the tunes on this release – do you agree? Is post-punk electronica a reasonable description?
Yes, suppose there is more of a staccato, electro feel to “Thirst” and “Flight”. I guess most bands are wary of being pigeon-holed for obvious reasons but the music we like tends to have a post-punk electronica mood to it and a lot of the bands we like have themselves been influenced by ‘krautrock’ or whatever one calls it. Our sound is also affected by the available instruments and what we can play – being limited mainly to a bass guitar, keyboards and a variety of drum inputs makes for a certian sound. Even though we also both love ‘guitar’ music, we kind of like the idea there is no lead guitar on any of our stuff as it means we find other ways of making the sounds in the spaces that perhaps non-bass guitars would make. The lyrics are very important to us as well, and we’re not sure how that fits with labels – but they mostly have political overtones, whether it be issues of personal identity or broader movements and these very much overlap. There is a certain ambiguity to them but if you listen careful to the lyrics of Thirst, you might be able to infer some meaning on things which are quite close to home, personally and geographically, without preaching hopefully. On the other hand ‘Americans with Guns’ is the Ronseal of our songs. We can’t wait to record that properly! So, post-punk electronica sensibility certainly and motorik / kosmiche / krautrock if you want! We have also been labelled ‘Witch House’ (whatever that is……..). We are delighted to be part of something special in Salford. We’ve had nothing but support across the board from gig organisers, DJs and friends passionate about music and dedicated to an organic Salford music scene.
So there you have it – the first EP from a very talented and unique band, and I highly recommend it to you.