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A Certain Ratio - Mind Made Up

  by Robert Fisher

published: 25 / 6 / 2010

A Certain Ratio - Mind Made Up
Label: LTM Recordings
Format: CD


Lively and raw-sounding merging of rock, jazz and dub in first album in over a decade from former Factory Records act, A Certain Ratio

Disconnected almost bored vocals like a train conductor calling out the short haul stops, swirling synth noise and bleating trumpet notes like traffic horns, guitar fragments like demolition site leftovers of concrete and rebar and then there is the beat…always the beat, as the drummer’s pulse pushes and grooves along anchoring it all. This is how the song 'Forced Laugh', from 1981’s 'To Each' album, sits in my memory. It could easily describe some of this current offering from A Certain Ratio. When I first heard this band, I was surrounded by the dreary decay of a once semi-successful fishing and boatbuilding town, currently populated by vacant brick warehouses once used for fish packing, broken windows, uneven cobblestones, jean jacket townies flying flags of ignorance and boredom, poverty fueled by cheap liquor and a low cost of living and a small community of people who were experimenting with the ideas, music and fashion of similarly besieged communities around the globe. A solitary outpost of modern culture in this town was a small tasteful shop that sold vintage clothes and had a glass case where they sold small amounts of imported vinyl often previewed in a jukebox in the corner that also played great rock and punk singles from the owner’s collection including the first single from ACR, released in 1979 on Factory records a year after the formation of the band, called 'All Night Party'. It was a time of great excitement and experimentation. Anything was possible. When a band as long lasting as this one calls down the wires with a new recording, it is always a temptation to try to review the album with the band history in mind. It can be unfair to the current recording, bringing too much sentiment to bear in a positive review of a medium effort or by twisting up a “heard it all before” kind of response to a pleasant album from band worthy of respect. In this case, I’d rather deal with what is right before me. This is a good record, full of lively, raw, in the room recordings not laboured over in production and sapped of the initial energy and punch of the rehearsal room. All the right elements are in play with guitar parts borrowing equally from Wire and Isaac Hayes, rubbery bass lines not out of place on a funky George Clinton track, drumming that pushes and pulls at jazz, dub, funk and rock roots, synths and keyboards that pendulum from Cabaret Voltaire coldness to Stevie Wonder pop sophistication, the slightly distorted and drunken horns and the still slightly detached vocals dropped in like an observer from another time and place. A stew of influences that is never imitative. There are some standouts here: the very good pop song 'Teri', the classic dance trance of 'I Feel Light' and the title track, 'Mind Made Up', are all worth mentioning. If you are in the mood for some fun, compare the final version of “Teri” with the demo that can be found at www.youtube.com/user/jezkerr where it is paired with a similarly different video than the official version. I like them both. To bring this all to a close, 'Mind Made Up' will please current fans of the band, might sneak up and impress someone who hasn’t had the fortune to hear them and should if things are right in the world ( a big assumption I admit) should generate some heat with live sets at festivals well into the fall season.

Track Listing:-
1 I Feel Light
2 Down, Down, Down
3 Everything Is Good
4 Way to Escape
5 Rialto 06
6 Mind Made Up
7 Teri
8 Bird to the Ground
9 Starlight
10 Which Is Reality
11 Skunk
12 Very Busy Man

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Interview (2010)
A Certain Ratio - Interview
In our second interview with him, Mark Rowland speaks to Jez Kerr, the bassist with pioneering Mancurian post-punks A Certain Ratio about his group's first album since the 90's, 'Mind Made Up', and Sum Ratios, his new offshoot group which consists of several ex-members of the band

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