Back at the beginning of the 1980s Factory Records had the good idea of extending the format of the legendary Factory Sample double 7” to album length. A double LP was issued called A Factory Quartet which gave four acts 20 minutes to do as they please. Aside from three exquisite tracks by the Durutti Column, the result was unfortunately a bit of a stinker. Who now remembers Kevin Hewick or the Royal Family and the Poor? Blurt’s contributions were better, but overall it was a case of great concept, terrible execution (a familiar Factory theme).
Nearly thirty years on, in the age of digital downloads and covermounts with every music mag going, it seems odd to resurrect the idea. But Highpoint Lowlife have done just that. Magnetism, That Electricity is a double vinyl album (limited to 300 numbered copies) which showcases four acts associated with the label. All four are very different, but somehow complementary. And the result is an unqualified triumph.
The Mandelbrot Set kick things off with the four part suite “Astronomy and Allied Sciences”, a seamless blend of strings, guitars and drone. The tension builds through the first three pieces before everything explodes in the controlled frenzy of the fourth. Its total eighteen minute duration feels almost truncated – there isn’t a moment where things meander aimlessly. The more I play it, the shorter it seems. Weird.
Fisk Industries are a very different kettle of, um, fish. This is dark and dirty dubby hip-hop, like Techno Animal mixed by DJ Krush. “Gangu” is relentless, like a wave of zombies: twice it appears to die away before coming back for another attack. “Rhetoric” introduces a mangled, chopped up MC into the mix, and “Crowley” is a brilliant ambient piece that almost moves into dubstep territory.
“The King of All Tears” is a single 20 minute track that combines Stars of the Lid style drone, with the urgent, muted techno pulse that Carl Craig perfected on the classic Landcruising album. Ambient music in a hurry. OK, it’s been done before, but seldom with the finesse that the Village Orchestra manage here. It’s a truly exceptional piece. Think E2-E4 for the drone generation.
The Village Orchestra is apparently a moonlighting third of Glasgow’s The Marcia Blaine School For Girls who close the party with a trio of slow-burning, atmospheric electronic pieces. “Pinar” reminds me of those stream-of-consciousness, low key epics that Underworld do so well. “The Ratio” sounds like an LFO remix of ACR’s “Knife Slits Water”. “Bottle Stain” is a fittingly inspiring end to proceedings – Detroit beats and metallic drone that fades out to the sound of sirens. Marvellous stuff.
As well as the double album, there will be 100 CDR copies and, presumably, downloads available too.
* Side A – Mandelbrot Set
A1 Astronomy And Allied Sciences 1a
A2 Astronomy And Allied Sciences 1b
A3 Astronomy And Allied Sciences 2a
A4 Astronomy And Allied Sciences 2b
* Side B – Fisk Industries
* Side C – The Village Orchestra
C1 The King Of All Tears
* Side D – The Marcia Blaine School For Girls
D2 The Ratio
D3 Bottle Stain