A Certain Ratio - To Each (1981)

Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 3:21 AM

A Certain Ratio's 'To Each' was their first full studio album and was produced by the legendary Martin Hannett and originally released on Factory Records in 1981.
On 'To Each' ACR mixed Funk, Dub, Percussion and Electronics to create a truly unique sound and the album was instantly hailed a classic.
Sandwiched in between their rough round the edges but excellent debut The Graveyard And The Ballroom and their best album Sextet, A Certain Ratio's first proper studio album To Each... is often unfairly maligned. It was released shortly after the suicide of Ian Curtis, and the band were immediately pounced upon for allegedly trying to step into Joy Division's shoes (and take their sizable audience with them). Bearing in mind that Joy Division comparisons plague ACR to this day, this comes as no surprise. However, listening to the album today with an open mind reveals it as something of a flawed masterpiece.

Joy Division seem to be an inescapable reference point when describing the music of A Certain Ratio. Both bands were from Manchester, both were signed to Factory Records and both played dark post-punk music. The similarities between Simon Topping's and Ian Curtis' singing voices are also unavoidable. However, To Each... is really the sound of a band branching out and finding it's own sound.

Dense and claustrophobic, it is ACR's darkest album, and there are definite hints of Joy Division within the songs, but there is also a strong industrial undercurrent to some of the tracks and the effects-heavy production combined with the ethereal, slightly alien vocals sometimes call to mind Throbbing Gristle and Coil. It is also the first album where they fully explored their Latin influences, best heard on the lengthy percussion jams 'Back To The Start' and 'Winter Hill'. However, whilst later albums would reveal a lighter, more playful side to the band, on To Each... the sound is uniformly dark and challenging.

The album's biggest flaw is undoubtedly the production. Even when compared to the demos and live tracks of The Graveyard And The Ballroom, the production sounds flat and lifeless. The bass - which is really the driving force of ACR's sound - suffers especially from this. It was recorded at E.A.R.S in New Jersey with Martin Hannett at the production desk. However, when it came the time to mix the album, after four weeks of Hannett getting the sound just right, the studio engineer zeroed the settings on the recording desk and ruined a months worth of work! Hannett had to mix the album back in England at his studio du jour, Strawberry in Stockport. According to the band the new mix never came close to the original sound intended for the album, making it one of the great "What if..." albums.

Overall, To Each... is definitely not the 5 star classic that it might have been, but it is also far from the clunky derivative stinker that it has often been made out to be. Listeners expecting a more straight-forward, bouncy punk-funk album in the style of The Graveyard And The Ballroom will most likely be left scratching their heads. Those expecting a dark, challenging, brave recording from a band not quite yet at their creative peak will be richly rewarded.by Secretlymancunian
01 Felch 3:45
02 My Spirit 2:28
03 Forced Laugh 5:53
04 Choir 2:51
05 Back to the Start 7:49
06 The Fox 3:46
07 Loss 3:23
08 Oceans 3:30
09 Winter Hill 12:45

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