Various Artists: New Order Present Be Music – Album Review
Various Artists – New Order Present Be Music (Factory Benelux)|
Released 17th February 2017
3CD collection bringing together New Order’s production work over the years, featuring 36 tracks from Factory co-horts Quando Quango, A Certain Ratio and Section 25 as well as newer acts such as Factory Floor and even a contribution from the Charlatans’ Tim Burgess.
Ian Canty obviously never went to the Hacienda, but finds having a vivid imagination for once comes in handy…
Soon after their formation in the aftermath the tragic death of Ian Curtis, the members of New Order (in addition to their recordings) started to produce other bands and artists under the “Be” umbrella. These productions, which over the years represented a surprisingly wide body of work, are what have been neatly compiled on this expansive new Factory Benelux release. As their own compositions slowly worked their way away from their Post Punk/”Independent in the old sense” roots more towards an electronic dancebeat, their studio mixing skills would mainly (but not solely) concentrate on acts pursuing that direction too. On the face of it that would look like a narrowing down of sound, but as we shall see the two separate sonic avenues intertwined to often present some bewitching and groovy mutations.
These three discs comprises of some of the floor fillers of the pre-Acid House Hacienda (with the prototypes of that movement being trialled and modified also), clubbing Electronica, 80s Pop dance, lurching Post Punk plus newer updates in a similar mode. There was a school of thought years back (that is not quite so prevalent today) that Factory from the early 80s onwards only signed bands that sounded like New Order and whilst you could argue that a definite touch and feel on these productions is displayed, it was not the quite the whole truth. There was plenty of room for variety, much of which is presented in full blazing colour here.
For instance it is always a joy to hear the criminally underrated Section 25 and their tracks here are show wildly different sides of the band. Always seen as a sort of “sub-Joy Division/New Order” by people who weren’t really listening, their early tune “Knew Noise” is perhaps the best PIL song Lydon and Co never wrote and the stomping “Sakura” shares a similar feel to prime Shriekback.
“Looking From A Hilltop”, presented here in a 12″ form, represents a more dance-orientated side to S25 and also appears in a remixed format as “Another Hilltop”. Both are dramatic, atmospheric wobbly Punk Disco delights with some great female vocals.
A Certain Ratio, another of the long-time New Order running mates (Donald Johnson of ACR also helped out on some of the productions on here), even manage to include a little Proto-house ivory tinkling on “Bootsy” and spin-off band Quanda Quango are presented by the cool electro-beat Funk of “Love Tempo” and “Tingle”.
The Soul Pop of Marcel King and 42nd Street could have easily fitted into a mid-80s “Top Of The Pops”, being both catchy and able to get the feet moving. King in particular was a fine singer and unlucky not to make a mainstream breakthrough at the time. 52nd Street did seem to being the perfect blend of Post Punk and Funk, “Can’t Afford” definitely passing muster on both counts and again it is difficult to see why success eluded them, a band ripe for re-invetsigation. Winston Tong of Bay Area New Wave oddballs Tuxedomoon gives dramatic voice to the neat “electro pop with O Levels” of “Theoretical Mind” and if Royal Family and the Poor’s “Motherland” is the nearest we get to an aping of the New Order sound itself, it is very well done. Yet more “icing on the cake” for me is “the coolest bloke in pop” Paul Haig typically weaving some of his own particular brand of magic on “The Only Truth”.
Of the newer acts here, Factory Floor seem more to be what we called “difficult music” all those years back (most notably in Dave Henderson’s “Wild Planet” column in “Sounds”). Treated electronic music which doesn’t really have a dance element to it, raw and almost harking back to the Normal’s ground-breaking “Warm Leatherette”. Their “Real Love” has frantic synths and electronic percussion with wispy, barely even there vocals – the ghost captured by the machine. In contrast Surprise’s “Over Italia” is a lovely little bit of late night chill, bringing things down after all the frantic beats in fine style. While I have to admit I’m not a big fan of Tim Burgess to be honest, “Oh Men (02 Remix)” is a perfectly acceptable piece of Electropop and the Beat Club’s “Security (Dub)” follows in the footsteps of ZZT’s Propaganda but without the bombast overkill Trevor Horn tended to inflict on them.
Of course New Order themselves feature in various guises along the way. Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert’s side-line the Other Two offer “Inside” which mixes Ping Pong syndrums, echo-laden vocals with an even slightly Ragga beat! On the other hand bassman Peter Hook gives us the military marching, percussion-heavy “Lovalta Lakota Theme”. As a finale we are furnished with New Order’s own 22 minutes monster track, a 1982 recording of “Video 586” which brings a riveting end to proceedings. This one is all tightly coiled electro beats, fuzzy bass and dancing synths leading slowly up to a distorted climax – bringing together the Pop, Dance and experimentation in a mind-melting mix.
“New Order Presents Be Music” is a lovingly compiled, nicely presented tribute to the talent spring around the North West (with acts from all other points of the compass coming into the fold along the way) and damn listenable to boot. It will bring back memories those quite beautiful, spellbinding but slightly impenetrable Peter Saville sleeves and the supremely danceable 12 inch singles that were housed in them, providing the perfect stepping stone between Post Punk obtuseness and the dance floor. But allied to that there is plenty of fresh material too for your delectation. This is a varied collection for certain, but one that benefits greatly from the range of sounds on offer and acts as a bit of an eye opener for anyone still believing the “Factory sounded all the same” myth.
* Vinyl version complies 12 key cuts from the 3CD edition in a double disc package
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All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here