In September 2021, I interviewed A Certain Ratio just ahead of the release of Loco Remezclada. They had already written 1982. Restlessly creative, respectful to their influences and history, always looking forward.
First of all, the stunning album design by Trevor and Craig Johnson. Classic, clean, modern typography and a passionate colour palette that unlocks the door to the ten track kaleidoscope of creative overdrive.
Samo moulds a delicately percussive hi-hat funk groove with nods to the hedonistic years of Basquiat and graffiti influenced NYC art and music – rap, funk, jazz – and some of the incredible sounds coming from the Puerto Rican and Cuban population and, of course, Fela Kuti. The edgy, steamy and complex groove of Waiting On A Train oozes claustrophobia but Martin Moscrop’s sparse ascending and descending guitar licks give us space, whilst taking us into the twilight. Ellen and Chunky are hypnotizing with their languid yet uncompromising vocal pairing.
I was really excited to hear the title track, 1982 – “a fuckin’ stonker” as Jez described it in that 2021 interview – floats an Afrobeat electro-bass groove that has me reaching for my intergalactic passport. It really is a fuckin’ stonker. I get my Planet Earth passport back for the Afrodubby A Trip in Hulme. Tombo in M3 is a freeform instrumental fusing acid jazz and afrobeat to whisk you away on its sublime, meditative groove. Constant Curve is possibly my favourite and, in true Ratio style, is an epic collaboration – the middle eight groove is a beautifully sweaty slice of underground euphoria. Having said that, Afro Dizzy is pretty euphoric too. And psychedelic. The sleeve notes tell us that the drums are from a Tony Allen sample pack. It’s a fantastic, deep, complex groove with killer guitar licks, electronic psychedelia and some truly wondrous brass. Glorious. Holy Smoke channels a freeform shake of the grooviest hips and the dirtiest, squalliest sax and Ellen’s flute elevates the experimental (hey, yeah, of course, its ACR!) Tier 3 to a celestial otherworld. Ballad of ACR surprises you with its traditional (whaaaat??!) melodies that makes you wonder if you’ve gone through the looking glass into a compilation of Wire downtempos, but no, it shapeshifts into a freeform jazz experiment that squeals, honks and bleeps before the sultry trumpet brings us back down to earth.
ACR’s power is in their collective being, the sum of their parts, their absolute open mindedness. They’re about being fearless, in love with music and bloody fabulous at creating it. With 1982, their renaissance continues.
1982 is out now on Mute Records
Words by Giles Sibbald
Photography – Paul Husband