A Certain Ratio - To Each...

by Bill Golembeski Rating:10 Release Date:2017-11-24
A Certain Ratio - To Each
A Certain Ratio - To Each

Just so you know, The Trouser Press Record Guide, which was my new wave bible for a couple of years, said of the album: “To Each… snuffed the band’s early promise, burying itself in dreary rhythms and astonishing self-indulgence.”

Well, sure, if the desired product was a set of short post-punk songs that filled the gap left by Joy Division’s demise. The band’s previous cassette only release, The Graveyard and the Ballroom, hinted at that possibility. But ACR, with this first proper album, took a plunge into a brand-new rock ‘n’ roll bag filled with funk, dub, electronic sound, odd jazz, progressive rock, and ethnic everything. This album is just a wonderful broad audio painting in which the band uses warm space to accent the deep bass notes and constant percussion against the strange almost “free-form trumpet” (thanks, again Trouser Press) and sinewy guitar that all frame the spectral vocals.

And for this one, someone must have just yelled, Release the funky Kraken!

That’s the only way I can possibly explain the bass and drum work of Jeremy Kerr and Donald Johnson and the ungodly danceable noise of this record.

It’s just an idea, but this album has a lot more affinity to Can’s Tago Mago than to post-punk records by Echo and the Bunnymen or The Teardrop Explodes. It doesn’t really sound like Public Image, but it does share the Metal Box’s sense of adventure. And I am reminded of 23 Skidoo’s funky percussion paradise Seven Songs.

Robert Frost wrote that poem about “Two roads” that “diverged in a yellow wood.” Now, the gist of that poem is not that one road is better than the other; rather, with any choice, something is obviously lost. So, we never got “Love, love will tear us apart again,” again. And that is an autumnal shame. I would have loved to hear that record.

However, this album is just a weird sonic pleasure. “Fetch” is the cornerstone. It starts with German space prog electronics, and then goes hard cold turkey with Jeremy Kerr’s bass. The vocals sort of chant their way into a melody. And then the band’s signature trumpet disrupts everything. I suppose, to get biblical in a Jericho sort of way, the walls between musical goalposts are suddenly down, and everything is suddenly up for grabs, just as rock ‘n’ roll grabs should always be. “My Spirit” proves there is still quite a bit of life left in the Joy Division songbook. You know, this album veers widely all over the rock spectrum, but hidden in each of the songs is a good ol’ Manchester Factory Records tune. So, listen my children and you shall hear, a batch of melodies equal to anything of the rock ‘n’ roll post-punk movement.

“Forced Laugh” is brilliant stuff. It takes its time, and its time takes the time to play a huge lead bass line, gentle precise percussion, and an irresistible trumpet hook. And yeah, the ghost of Ian Curtis lingers in a melody, too.

By the way, this album is a Martin Hannett production.

Ah, “Choir”: this was on that first demo/live cassette. It was a great moment then, and it’s an equal moment on this record. Martha Tilson’s haunting vocals link this music to a radio transmission from deep space. This foreshadows the next album Sextet.

And “Back to the Start” has everything, too. Eventually, the drumming dominates and proves a steadfast diversion from insane bass and trumpet dialog.  Then “The Fox,” “Loss,” and “Oceans” simply navigate their way into sonic bliss. This isn’t fusion by any stretch, but these songs possess the same joyous spirit of a great band like Brand X when it locks into the wonderful groove of “Born Ugly.” In particular, “The Fox” conjures the sound of early Jade Warrior, with music that explodes in a quiet way and is equally quiet in an explosive way. I don’t know, and to each his or her own opinion, but I don’t hear “the dreary rhythms and astonishing self-indulgence.” I just hear an interesting, and pretty funky, weird rock record. And it’s a record, if given time, is just a lot of intense joy to hear.

The final cut “Winter Hill” is the show-stopper. It’s perhaps too industrial (with its ten-minute plus drums to the front of everything) for my taste, but ultimately, the song is just sort of powerful in a scary and dramatic way. It is an exclamation point of a song. And, perhaps, it is the necessary denouement, the catharsis, that must burn with unbridled passion (much like Billy Mumphrey of Seinfeld fame) to complete this artistic statement.

And yes, records of this ilk—records like Fear of Music, Faith, English Settlement, Pink Flag, Quiet Life, Unknown Pleasures, War, and London Calling—were artistic statements.

Just love this album for being the other road, which, in its own way, is no better or worse than any other pathway choice. It was an odd record at the time. It’s a vibrant record today. Of course, it was also a vibrant record of its day, and it’s still an odd record today. But that’s because its sound is filled with humor, drama, weird sounds, twists and turns, a pretty decent tune here and there, the foibles of humanity, power, and the simple wish to create something special in a world that doesn’t often demand such lovely stuff in its pursuit of a humdrum belief that one road is truly better than the many other pathways, covered in autumnal leaves, that are always open to us all.

So yeah, let’s release this still funky Kraken once again!

 

 

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