Factrix: "Scheintot" music review

NewImageAbout ten years ago, we championed the San Francisco industrial prodigies Factrix via their Artifact two CD anthology released on Storm, in fact, we made it a Record Of The Week. That went out of print quickly; so we are now quite grateful to Superior Viaduct for at last reissuing this amazing and seminal 1981 recording, Scheintot, on CD and LP.

Factrix originally manufactured their proto-Wolf Eyes sound in San Francisco some 30+ years ago. The history of underground music on the West Coast in the late '70s is not an easy one to trace. Unlike the punk explosion in England or New York, the influences and disturbances of the musical circuits manifested collusions of concepts that never really fit into the marketable ideas of punk or new wave. Even before those terms were commonplace, California was home to such anomalies in artrock as the Residents and the Los Angeles Free Music Society, who both experimented freely with technology, dadaism, culture jamming, and the detritus of post-psychedelia and bad acid trips. This was the environment that also spawned such genre unfriendly projects as The Screamers, Savage Republic, Non, Survival Research Laboratories, Nervous Gender, Negativland, and – Factrix.

In truth, SF's Factrix belonged to the original Industrial culture of Throbbing Gristle, SPK, and Cabaret Voltaire, although their take on transgressive themes and their grim abuse of technology never reached as wide an audience as those icons of Industrial Records. In their short lifespan from 1978 – 1982, Factrix developed a language that clearly rivalled that of their European comrades; but in many ways, Factrix owed their sound to their San Francisco roots, as they inverted the paisley pretenses of psychedelia into a grim seance of sound in which free love became sexual taboos, universal peace became soul-crushing dread, and transcendence became morbidity. This inversion of psychedelia used many of the same tools of Haight-Ashbury in composing through non-structured improvisations as well as through a steady diet of psilocybin mushrooms; but the sound came out all wrong.

Factrix devolved '70s pop banalities into dissonant slabs of noise with squiggling guitar feedback and all-encompassing dirges from over-distorted basslines, with a continuous, tinny pulse from an abused drum machine. The process of free association carried over in the vocal duties, which were typically shared amongst the chief protagonists Bond Bergland, Cole Palme, and Joseph Jacobs.

Scheintot was the only studio album from Factrix, originally released on Adolescent Records in 1981. Its dark lysergic murk and obsessive decomposition crawls through scabrous guitars, clanking metal, distorted electronics, shadow-cast vocals and atmospheric doom, certainly paralleling the death factory churn of TG's Second Annual Report and SPK's Leichenshrei!!

Factrix: Scheintot CD and LP