It’s been a big week for DFA Records, what with Echoes celebrating its tenth anniversary and “All My Friends” getting thrown into the conversation of the Best Song Of The Millennium (and let’s be honest, it totally is). There’s also that new Shit Robot single featuring DFA pal Reggie Watts and Arcade Fire’s James Murphy-supervised “Reflektor” saturation. (You might be wondering if I just linked to every Arcade Fire story we’ve run in the past week; not even close.) And I haven’t even mentioned the best stuff yet! Really, this week is just the culmination of what’s been a big year for DFA; in the past 12 months, Murphy’s label has unleashed, among others: a pair of psychedelic sound collage LPs from Larry Gus and Black Dice member Eric Copeland, a great Juan Maclean house single featuring LCD’s Nancy Whang, and a genre-cobbling, globetrotting Sinkane record. Death From Above has remained a steady source of art-damaged danceable delights in the interim since LCD Soundsystem went out to pasture. It’s almost like the label is trying to make me feel better about LCD’s (untimely?) conclusion, or to remain a profitable business venture.
So anyway, about DFA’s big week: Hard to imagine any label this year will release two records as excellent as Holy Ghost!’s sophomore set, Dynamics, and Factory Floor’s self-titled debut on the same day. Both LPs came out Tuesday, and both exhibit some of the characteristics that made LCD Soundsystem so powerful. It’s almost like they’ve polarized LCD into its component parts, with Holy Ghost! handling the warmly glowing New Wave pop songwriting and Factory Floor taking care of the repetitious rhythmic disco-punk bombardment. Consider them DFA’s yin and yang.
The Holy Ghost! record snuck up on me a bit because I found the group’s set at Hangout so un-engaging. But this isn’t Alabama beachfront music. It’s music for John Hughes movie montages and emotional car rides and ultra-stylish dance clubs I’m not sure exist. (I’m wearing shorts right now, so…) “It Must Be The Weather” is on some Peter Gabriel “Games Without Frontiers” shit, while NYC anthem “Bridge And Tunnel” is a percolating Italo disco joyride with Scissor Sisters flair. Some of the reference points are exceedingly modern: “Dance A Little Closer” could easily pass for Divine Fits, and despite its New Orderly intro, “Changing Of The Guard” is the best Phoenix song of the year. Actually, in many ways Dynamics is the album I hoped Phoenix’s Bankrupt! would be.
As long as we’re making substitutions: Factory Floor is one potential superior version of the Knife’s impenetrable gauntlet throwdown Shaking The Habitual. It’s just as minimal, just as unruly and sometimes just as unwieldy. It’s even got those eerie disembodied vocals that might or might not be human. But whereas the Knife’s record is easy to get lost in (in a bad way), this one just bludgeons you throughout in a manner that demands attention. It’s relentlessly repetitive, unflinchingly abrasive and jarringly physical. It’s music for war dances or dancing as warfare. Drill music might be Chiraq’s soundtrack, but these three Londoners have made a different kind of punishing Chicago music — sleeker, slinkier, fleeter of foot, but punishing nonetheless.
Might I suggest a package tour? Let Murphy set the stage with a DJ set, then have Holy Ghost! come out around midnight and let the good times roll, then bring out Factory Floor to wreck shop in the early morning hours. Or maybe the Murphy DJ set would be redundant insofar as DJ sets are about flexing. He’s showcased his impeccable taste well enough just by releasing records like these — and isn’t that the surest sign that he’s still got his edge after all?