Recorded as a trio at Pink Floyd’s Britannia Row studio in London in January 1981, Always Now combined austere post-punk rhythm and noise with elements of Can, Krautrock and modern psychedelia. Key tracks include Friendly Fires, Dirty Disco and New Horizon, along with C.P. (a collaboration with Hannett) and Hit (extensively sampled by Kanye West for the track F.M.L. on his 2016 album The Life of Pablo).
Disc 2 gathers together several non-album singles from 1980 and 1981, including Charnel Ground, Je Veux Ton Amour and debut EP Girls Don’t Count – the latter produced by mentors Rob Gretton and Ian Curtis (of Joy Division).
Disc 3 offers a complete live show professionally recorded at Groningen (Netherlands) on 26 October 1980, as part of a Factory package tour.
Disc 4 is part-improvised second studio album The Key of Dreams, recorded and produced by the band themselves a few months after Always Now, and released by Factory Benelux in June 1982.
Disc 5 consists of further experimental material recorded in 1981 and self-released on a cassette called Illuminus Illumina. This final disc closes with an extended (and previously unreleased) live encore jam recorded with all four members of New Order at Reading University on 8 May 1981.
All tracks are newly re-mastered from the original quarter-inch tapes. The first 1000 copies of the box set are pressed in coloured vinyl: disc 1 (black); disc 2 (clear); disc 3 (yellow); disc 4 (red); disc 5 (silver). The outer case in printed in PMS 123 with spot varnish.
The 16 page booklet features unseen images by noted photographer Philippe Carly and texts by founder members Larry and Vin Cassidy. Also included is the first ever interview with guitarist Paul Wiggin, whose sudden departure in late 1981 saw Tony Wilson try (and fail) to recruit pre-Smiths teenager Johnny Marr as replacement.
“One of the best albums Britain's second city has unleashed” (Uncut); “In 1980 their bass-driven mantras were thoughtlessly dismissed as second-rate Joy Division, but hindsight judges them more kindly. The wind-dried skeins of their blasted guitar harmonics and skimped electronics gauntly cling to the songs’ skeletal frames. With telltale titles like Babies in the Bardo their Buddhist interests hang heavy over these early stirrings. But, combining a bass-led drone with a characteristic groaning vocal, Charnel Ground succinctly pins down Section 25's pre-disco appeal” (The Wire)