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Factums - Spells and Charms

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Artist: Factums

Album: Spells and Charms

Label: Kill Shaman

Review date: Apr. 2, 2008

Seattle’s Factums have been knocking around for a few years now, with a scattered trail of releases left along the way that document the trio’s feet-first plunge into the darkest recesses of modern noise, post-Kraut synths, and a distinctly intergenerational punk squall. While the group’s members list both the Fruit Bats and the Intelligence as former stomping grounds, in sound and style they really only compare to the latter, and even then with a grimmer mindset and spare approach that makes the Intelligence’s few records seem like breezy walks in a pretty overpopulated park.

One of Factum’s greatest assets is their ability to sound so singularly out of time in nearly everything they do. Easily at home alongside modern weirdo punks like the A Frames (with whom they have collaborated) or pretty much any other member of the S-S Records stable, the group’s singles and lone Siltbreeze LP, Alien Native, betrayed a crew that would have been as much at home warming up for early incarnations of Pere Ubu, Chrome or Cabaret Voltaire as they are churning out product from their modern Pacific Northwest perch. None of that is to suggest that these three sound particularly derivative of any bygone generation of avant punk loners. Quite the contrary, actually, as their limber jams pull those classic sounds into these modern times with an unkempt urgency.

Though removed a few years from the recordings that made up the Alien Native LP, most of the tracks on Spells and Charms tap right into the same rusty vein, all distant echoes and thumps, trebly guitars and distant shouts that witness an almost industrial clatter propelled forth with garage punk’s limber pulse and rhythmic insistence. Recorded live and with zero frills, the music here is presented with a fidelity that grants it a mysterious urgency, with tracks bounding back and forth between moodier, instrumental set-pieces and full-bodied stomps that kick at a frenetic pace.

“Lost One” sets the pace for the album early on, opening with a simple bassline that backs up into a rumbling percussive shuffle, both of which serve as a necessary counterpoint to a drone of guitars and distorted vocals. It’s a simple formula, though one that plays with minimalist approaches from a number of different genres, rubbing dub’s spartan deployment against more experimental drone textures. Later, the band works their way through the queasy, circular “Mixture,” and howls through “Origami,” plying simple percussive figures with a steadily encroaching din.

While each of the actual songs on Spells and Charms is pretty great on its own, some of the band’s most creative work here comes in the (sometimes) brief interstitial pieces that pop up throughout the album. Ranging from keyboard driven pulse of “Anemone” to the quasi-Dead C. homage of “Anopheles,” these shorter bursts neatly summarize Factums other driving infinitive, one that seeks to transcend the rudimentary nature of garage punk with more exploratory glances at busted electronics. When examined alongside the more rhythmic, claustrophobic clatter that these three cook up throughout much of the album, these brief asides easily help elevate Spells and Charms and into wholly bizarre territory, a place that’s well worth coming back to again and again.

By Michael Crumsho

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