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
A Certain Ratio

"Manchester, 1978. In the beginning there were four: Jez Kerr (bass), Martin Moscrop (guitar/trumpet), Peter Terrel (guitar/effects) and Simon Topping (vocals/trumpet). Four thin boys with a name borrowed from a Brian Eno record, the intense, drummerless quartet initially drew influence from Wire, Eno, the Velvets and Kraftwerk, and gained a manager in Anthony Wilson of Factory Records.

"May 1979 saw the release of their first ACR single, the dark All Night Party, although the sound and musicianship of the band would be transformed by the arrival of funky drummer Donald Johnson (DoJo) in August. Over the next few months the band gigged widely, often with Joy Division as part of Factory packages, and recorded demos with producer Martin Hannett as well as a Peel session. Their support slot with Talking Heads on their UK tour in December 1979 set David Byrne on a new course, and provided the compelling live half of their chic cassette package The Graveyard and the Ballroom. Post-punk, ACR now reflected the influence of Funkadelic, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, The Bar Kays and James Brown."

- intro to ACR Biography by James Nice (LTM)

The Durutti Column