On Record – A Certain Ratio: 1982 (Mute)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

At first glance, an album with the title 1982 might be seen to be wearing rose-tinted spectacles. In the case of A Certain Ratio, however, it is nothing more than a mischievous curveball, for they renounce any links with nostalgia on the surface at least – apart from in the song of the same name.

Instead they go about their business with a continually refreshing disregard for genre boundaries, creating where the music takes them in the course of ten songs.

The line-up remains constant, with Jez Kerr, Martin Moscrop and Donald Johnson working alongside Tony Quigley, Matthew Steele and Ellen Beth Abdi, with a guest slot for Chunky the rapper.

What’s the music like?

Varied and vibrant! This is an album that pulses with activity and good vibes, right from the off.

When the easy beat and upward looking chorus of Samo sets out the band’s stall, the signs are good – and as 1982 progresses they only build on that good feeling. The title track is a blend of German pop music homage and loping Manchester groove, while Constant Curve features exalted levels of funk thanks to a guest turn from Emperor Machine.

Waiting On A Train mines a sweet melancholy thanks to a slower groove and Ellen Beth Abdi’s wonderful voice, complemented by the more nasal tones of Chunky and a dreamy piano prologue. Abdi takes over on Afro Dizzy, too, a dreamy mix of Afrobeat and sultry vocals.

Meanwhile Tombo in M3 is an ultra-cool instrumental, powered by liquid keyboard lines and a springy rhythm, while Holy Smoke bubbles up when Tony Quigley’s saxophone gets involved. Tier 3 finds Abdi on flute duties, behind the album’s catchiest riff.

Finally Ballad of ACR is an experimental sign-off, part song and part modern jazz workout, closing the album in a haze.

Does it all work?

It does. An open musical book is the best way for A Certain Ratio to work, and yields thoroughly invigorating results here.

Is it recommended?

Enthusiastically. If you’re a fan, you know exactly what to do – but if you’re new to ACR, this is a great place to start too.



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