Record Review: A Certain Ratio – “Sextet” UK LP [part 2]

a certain ratio monktone

[…continued from last post]

Next came an even deeper dive into Brazillian Jazz with “Skipscada.” The trilling whistles did not let up throughout the song. In fact, they only intensified as the scatting vocal and the percolating rhythms built up to a climactic peak. Ultimately sounding like something Yello might have done around that time – without synthesizers. Leaving us wanting more.

Playful piano made an appearance on “Day One.” Where Martha Tilson’s vocals strongly resembled the horn parts to be featured later in the song. The nimble Funk of the scanty piano and bass lines got able assistance from the wah-wah rhythm guitar. Chimes from the percussion drifted through the stereo spectrum; emphasizing Funk that was based on a heretofore atypical airiness. The middle eight flirted with atonality even as the horns came into the mix and asserted their dominance. The almost subliminal distorted vocal soundbites [some vocoded] then piled on as the track devolved into chaos.

“Rub Down” was all about the bass and clavinet until the skittering drums announced that this one was all about the Jazz. As if the whispered interjections of “jazzzzzzzzz” didn’t make painfully clear. Tilson’s vocals were just as staccato as the horns were here. The vocal elements of this album were pared down to the bone and the horns seemed to be locked into a dialogue with Ms. Tilson. Just another element in the mix to punctuate it all.

The sound of night time cicadas and crickets heralded “Rialto” as thunder rolled out in the intro. Queasy guitar lines keened throughout the song like nocturnal animals, but the bass managed to lock some discipline down for the song. The bleary horns adding anxiety along the way. Their long, sustained notes floating through the swampy environment of the song. And it ended as it began, with thunder and insects.

The concluding “Below The Canal” deftly jumped along a complex rhythm pattern and the completely vocoded vocals were rendered completely abstract in ways that every vocal on the album had threatened to do up until this point. Unsettling dub effects had muted trumpet notes shooting brightly through them. And then it all suddenly evaporated on a few drumbeats.


What I loved about this album was the sound blended Tropicalia and Jazz with some of the most astringent Post-Punk vibe around for a massive dose of cognitive dissonance. Superficially appealing to the Dionysian while ultimately failing to deliver strongly on that promise. The sound was dominated by the bass playing of Jez Kerr who never failed to provide a strong foundation for a groove even as the melodic instrument preferred to react against the beat.

The bass pulse to “Lucinda” was a monster here. It was the one instance of the band getting behind the obvious and capitulating, but to their credit, it’s their unwillingness to play the game that draws me further in. In that sense, the band were peers of Scott Walker. Another artist who took the difficult path when offered the choice. Their embrace of atmospheric soundscapes to couch their sound in marked them as radical outliers to Jazzfunk in a field where most of the main players, though engaging, all kowtowed to an orthodoxy alien to this band.

I really must get the ACR – BOX that I wrote about a few years ago while the getting is still affordable. It’s got the 12″ remix of “Knife Slits Water” that expanded from the seven minute LP cut to an impressive 9:47. and a generous complement of rarities and unreleased material that won’t ever lose luster as I begin building up a substantially larger ACR collection!

-30-

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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