When the place wasn’t completely shrouded in darkness, the lights were virulent and equally turbulent flash-grenades of romping bass gave way to a dynamic dance blowout last night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. London’s forward-thinking trio of cryptic electronic musicians, Factory Floor, headlined the evening; Washington D.C.-based duo Protect-U stimulated the crowd with mind-altering, dilapidated house beats for the opening set. The group studiously assembled expansive layers of percolated rhythms as often long-winded but stimulating dance productions. Each track started simple enough, one or two motivating drum patterns that gradually proliferated into a dazzling, almost incomprehensible array of distressing tones and astral imaginings. At times it was too much to think about, too much to wrap your head around. The only thing left to do was dance.
Factory Floor appeared wordless and stern at half past 10. They opened with a hypertensive, minimalist groove, Two Different Ways, largely showcasing material from last year’s self-titled sophomore album (DFA) throughout the set. Sole female member Nik Colk featured her breathy undertones on Two Different Ways as well as How You Say, also wielding an electric guitar and drumstick to produce spastic, undulating bursts of sound. At one point in the evening she traded her stick for a ramshackle violin bow, hacking away at the strings for a clipped and clamorous iteration of the warbling noise. Founding member Gabriel Gurnsey, heading the project’s endeavors for nearly a decade, played on a live drum set positioned at the front of the stage. This one substantial, surprisingly often discernable, sonic element assured the audience that they weren’t just watching an electronic show. This was something more complicated, something much more tactile and afflicting than their studio material.
Factory Floor delivered a completely engrossing set, stark and sublimated. On one hand, their approach to dance music is convoluted and painstakingly suppressed, teetering somewhere at the turbulent cross-section of maximalist grandeur and minimalist precision. This same tension though produces headier confines, a kind of warbling hallucinogenic strain, that simply demands a physical response. Among all the boisterous feedback and protracted geometrics carved out by electronic programming guru Dominic Butler, were moments of sheer brilliance. It was impossible not to give in to the groove. A few minutes before Colk and Butler were finally finished turning knobs and adjusting levels, drummer Gurnsey got up and left the stage without so much as a wave or a nod. Colk and Butler followed his lead. Well, okay then.
Photos by Angel Eugenio Fraden