A Certain Ratio

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To Each (1981), 7/10
Sextet (1981), 6/10
Force (1986), 5/10
Good Together (1989), 4/10
Acr:mcr (1990), 6/10
Up in Downsville (1992), 4/10
Change the Station (1996), 4/10
Mind Made Up (2008), 4/10

(Translated from my original Italian text by Joel Calahan)

A Certain Ratio gave life to one of the most original and forward-thinking British experiences of the period immediately following the punk rock boom. The group brought the suicidal pathos of Joy Division to a harmonic camp more cultivated and sophisticated, renouncing the role of lyric afflatus in favor of a more futuristic cut to their figure.

Introduced by their single Thin Boys (1979) as the nth dark-electro-intellectual collective from Manchester (Simon Topping was, perhaps, the only rival of Ian Curtis as the "voice" of dark punk), under the influence of the Talking Heads, A Certain Ratio evolved almost immediately toward a greater emphasis on rhythm with the successive Shack Up (1980). The addition of drummer Donald Johnson (a fan of Parliament) proved fundamental in defining the sound of their classic era: together with bassist Jeremy Kerr, Johnson created one of the most original rhythm sections of the period.

The product of that collaboration was Fox (1980), the most complete of their afro-funk-jazz works, disfigured by the distorted trumpet blasts of Simon Topping, and the mechanical rhythms of Do The Du (1980). Other important stopping places were Blown Away (1980), immersed in a chaos of Caribbean percussion and galactic vocalizations, and And Then Again (1980), sullen and hypnotic, with the languid wailing of the trumpet and spiritualistic vocals. Their defining style had been a hybrid of refined electronica embroidered with imperceptibles disturbances, a rhythm section of ghostly accented jazz rock, with funky guitar riffs and atonal and cadaverous vocals.

The album To Each (Factory, 1981), one of the most interesting of those years, formalized those experiments in a cerebral and angular sound (Felch and the monumental tribal dance Winter Hill).

There were, however, already the seeds of the decadence toward the eclectic techno-funk that followed, expressing itself in austere and weary harmonies on Sextet (Factory, 1981) and I'd Like To See You Again (1982), with passages of spineless dance retracting the more intellectual instances (Saturn, Touch). The nine-minute single Knife Slits Water was their final significant work.

At the end of the decade Topping would be also the instigator of the local house-music scene, first with the T-Coy project (Carino and I Ain't Nightclubbing) and later with a new edition of A Certain Ratio (Acid To Ecstasy).

Gli A Certain Ratio diedero vita a una delle esperienze Britanniche piu` originali e preveggenti del periodo facente immediatamente seguito al boom del punk-rock. Il gruppo porto` il pathos suicida dei Joy Division in un campo armonico piu` colto e sofisticato, rinunciando a parte dell'afflato lirico a favore di un taglio piu` futurista.

Presentati dal singolo Thin Boys (1979) come l'ennesimo complesso tetro-elettro-intellettuale di Manchester (Simon Topping era, forse l'unico rivale di Ian Curtis come "voce" del dark-punk), gli A Certain Ratio evolsero quasi subito, sotto l'influsso dei Talking Heads, verso una maggiore enfasi ritmica con il successivo Shack Up (1980). L'aggiunta del batterista Donald Johnson (un fan dei Parliament) fu fondamentale per definire il sound dell'era classica: insieme al bassista Jeremy Kerr defini` una delle sezioni ritmiche piu` originali dell'epoca.

Frutto di quell'intuizione furono Fox (1980), il brano piu` compiuto del loro afro-funk-jazz, sfregiato dai barriti distorti della tromba di Simon Topping, e i ritmi meccanici di Do The Du (1980). Altre tappe importanti furono Blown Away (1980), immersa in un caos di percussioni caraibiche e di vocalizzi galattici, e And Then Again (1980), cupa e ipnotica, con il languido vagito della tromba e vocalizzi spiritici. Lo stile che si stava definendo era un ibrido di elettronica raffinata, trapunta di disturbi impercettibili, pallidi accenti jazz-rock della sezione ritmica, di chitarrismo funky e di canto afono e cadaverico.

L'album To Each (Factory, 1981), uno dei piu` interessanti di quegli anni, formalizzo` quegli esperimenti in un sound cerebrale e spigoloso (Felch e la monumentale danza tribale di Winter Hill).

C'erano pero` gia` i germi della decadenza verso l'eclettico tecno-funky del seguito, espressosi in armonie austere e annoiate su Sextet (Factory, 1981) e I'd Like To See You Again (1982), con brani da ballo senza nerbo a rimangiarsi le istanze piu` intellettuali (Saturn, Touch). Il singolo di nove minuti Knife Slits Water fu l'ultimo brano significativo.

All fine del decennio Topping sara` anche l'iniziatore dell'house locale, prima con i T-Coy (Carino e I Ain't Nightclubbing) e poi con i nuovi A Certain Ratio (Acid To Ecstasy).

Force (Factory, 1986), the last album with keyboardist Andy Connell who was launching a new career with the Swing Out Sister, recycles the stereotypes of funk and disco-music of a decade earlier proporra` semplicemente una revisione notably in Bootsy, sung by Corinne Drewery (frontwoman of Swing Out Sister) and Mickey Way. After the poppy Good Together (1989), they tried to adapt to the "Madchester" vogue with Acr:mcr (1990), that contains the booming upbeat piano-driven Won't Stop Loving You, the feverish jazzy and Caribbean-tinged Tribeca, and especially the eight-minute acid techno fantasia BTTW90. Up in Downsville (1992) and Change the Station (1996) were irrelevant. Mind Made Up (2008) was an embarrassing reunion.

The EPs of their golden era were compiled on Old And The New (Factory, 1986). Early (Soul Jazz, 2002) is a career retrospective, but actually does not focus on the early period. The Graveyard and the Ballroom (Universal Sound, 2004) is a retrospective of their early music, including the entire 1979 debut cassette.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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