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A Certain Ratio

Vintage, Retro, Classic - all terms have time indications tagged to them. For most, it's about twenty years. So the eighties are back - in fashion, economics, and especially music. As the old saying goes, 'those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it,' - in our culture this rings especially true. But perhaps repetition isn't all that bad, because repetition is where it all began - in the beat.

Manchester band A Certain Ratio, became fascinated by the beat when their peers were trashing the melody and burying the beat that came with it. But ACR, a group that formed in 1978 and began to move feet in 1980 with their single "Shack Up" on Factory Records (Benelux), doesn't hold any tenets to the 80s. "We were influenced by music from the 70s and jazz from the 60s, but happened to be most prominent in the 80s," says Martin Moscrop, guitarist and trumpet player for ACR. As a result, "Shack Up" became the stand-out on Factory, sporting sounds that mixed Punk and Northern Soul. At the time, a punk/funk hybrid was ahead of its time in the UK, and ACR became the first band after the punk movent to record in America. "I really enjoyed the rise of Hip Hop in the 80s with all the stuff from New York and was really honoured to be there when all this was going on. We saw Africa Bambataa's first appearance in Manhattan at the Roxy...and also played Dancetria supported by Madonna." It's no wonder the band invited young, Bronx-based band ESG to England to record their first single on Factory. With the aid of engineer Martin Hannett, ACRs dancefloor friendly punk and ESGs minimalist funk aided the American influence on British acts still palpable today.

After all this time, Moscrop is making a journey back to NYC, bringing with him a head full of what's transpired over the years: the creation of urban dance music - a modern day parallel to the multi-cultural subversion twenty years ago in diversity challenged England. "Urban music is very popular [in the UK] and the garage acts have taken elements of House, Hip Hop, R&B and made it their own. I was really excited by Jungle when it first started evolving...Acid House music from Chicago and later Detroit in the late 80s was fucking great. [Acid House is] Another great American import that grabbed Britain's undivided and fanatical attention.

True to the times, UK label Soul Jazz has gathered both American and British bands on "In the Beginning, There Was Rhythm," an album which includes two tracks from ACR, "Shack Up" and "Knife Slits Water." "Shack Up," an infectious, funky yet metallic, industrial tune encourages cohabitation before marriage and tells the tale of the anti-conservative social climate of the times. "Knite Slits Water" incorporates more electronics and reverb effects, warming up the cold, mechanic beat with that funky bass line and hip swinging congas. An even more dancefloor-oriented song, ACRs loose steppin' philosophy resonates: "take the chance and dance." Fueled by this enthusiastic inclusion on a fantastic comp, ACR has been gigging again lately, and is due to release a new album, Early, a double album of mostly unreleased mixes and BBC Peel Sessions, at the end of March.

A perfect chance to promote the album, Moscrop will be DJing a two hour set that is sure to release the primordial beats found in funk, dub, acid house and techno that he and A Certain Ratio fused so neatly.

(Joining him will be Safety Scissors [Plug Research], Cut Faster [Record Camp], Dan Selzer [Transmission], Joshua [Aux Armes], Todd Rocker [Carpark Records], and Uysses [Scatalogics] @ Luxx, April 10th, 9pm, $10).

-- Lisa Garrett


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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | April 2002 | Issue 25
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