18 May 2017
Those Factory Records flexis in full 
Vinyl has resolutely refused to be killed off by compact discs, Napster and Spotify and is one of the fastest growing sectors of the music industry, seemingly only held back from getting even bigger by a lack of available pressing plant time. However, the poorer cousin of the vinyl seven-inch single, the flexi-disc, does seem to be beyond resurrection (unless there's an emerging hipster trend about which I am unaware) (quite possibly! Ed.) with inherent poor sound quality and durability being the main reasons.

So this would seem to be a good opportunity to review Factory Records' flexi-disc output (and to give the discs themselves one last play) for posterity...

We start with the FACT 14C Test Card flexi by Martin Hannett which came free with initial copies of The Return Of The Durutti Column.

FACT 14C Testcard - Martin Hannett

Lo-fidelity actual suits this recording apart from a bit of popping towards the end of the First Aspect. That said, the dreamier sounds of the Second Aspect don't sound too bad either. It's 33 1/3 rpm and made by Lyntone (as are all in this collection) and one-sided. This is probably only about the second time I've ever played it. According to discogs.com, the last Lyntone flexi was in 1991.

Moving on to FAC 28 Joy Division Komakino b/w Incubation & As You Said (aka And Then Again, aka Incubation 2, aka Incubation B - all these aliases being due to the fact that the track is uncredited).

FAC 28 Joy Division Komakino

The flexi was supposedly available free to record shops indefinitely but stocks eventually ran dry. The quite large number that were pressed mean that it isn't that rare a release. It would later resurface in the Appendix of certain versions of FACT 250 Substance. It's sounds pretty damn good here too, despite perhaps lacking the full sonic depth associated with more modern formats.

Next we have FAC 51B Merry Christmas From The Haçienda and Factory Records.

FAC 51B Merry Christmas From The Hacienda

This was a highly quirky release (even by Factory's eclectic standards) which celebrates the first Christmas at the Haçienda. Simplistic synths and processed vocals from New Order create two Christmas carols (Rocking Carol / Ode To Joy) the like of which you've never heard before. It's unavailable elsewhere to the best of my knowledge.

And finally we have FAC 214 The Guitar and Other Marketing Devices which present four excerpts from The Durutti Column's 1988 magnum opus in the glorious lo-fi of flexi-disc.

FAC 214 The The Guitar and Other Marketing Devices

This promoted a modern-sounding album so what better medium to use than flexis!? This was probably an ironic ruse by Tony Wilson. A matching counter-top self-service box for the flexis was also designed and provided in matching exquisite design by 8vo. It's also the only square disc in this collection (which makes cueing the tonearm difficult). The music tracks are short and sweet and trail an album that would ultimately be listened to on higher quality formats such as CD and DAT. The in-track sound is fine but loud popping and scraping is highly evident between clips. It remains unclear as to how effective this disc was from a promotional perspective.

That's all our four FAC flexis folks!

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Peter Saville colour wheel
Biting Tongues

In the grey days of late 1970s post-punk Manchester, youth culture was a serious affair: every musical performance was measured mostly by the conviction of its delivery. The term 'New Wave' opened up free vistas where acquired skills could once again be exercised after punk's monochrome blur. It could be applied to anything from a James 'Blood' Ulmer record to the latest Throbbing Gristle release, Magazine to Swell Maps. Move outside that terrain into Sun Ra, Parliament, Frank Sinatra and Martin Denny, and your options were suddenly without limit...

Then came Tony Wilson's Factory Club (at the Russell Club in Hulme) offering an open invitation to experiment that was taken up when Ken Hollings, Howard Walmsley, Eddie Sherwood and a few others decided to make some noise to accompany their 16mm silent epic Biting Tongues. A further performance followed a few weeks later, when Colin Seddon and Graham Massey disbanded their Post Natals project and joined up. The film itself, a flashing series of negative images, became a memory; the name remained.

- extract from the LTM Biting Tongues biography

Factory Records

The Durutti Column