A Certain Ratio – It All Comes Down To This (Mute)

Following hot off the heels off their last record ‘1982’, the band release their 13th studio album. Working with producer Dan Carey whom they met in 2021, it departs from their traditional sound and introduces new instrumentation from Carey’s studio, such as electronic sampling techniques. This can be heard in the opening title track, ‘All Comes Down To This’, with siphoning wind-up modular synth sounds and cataclysmic crashes, frontman Jez Kerr’s monotonal political lyrics citing “destruction…all the loss and all the fear” representative of a depressing reality which the album heavily politicises.

The second single follows, ‘Keep it Real’; a song written during Kerr’s recovery in hospital from septic arthritis; although once again darkly political, its catchy chorus-line contains personal musical references that the band used to help boost his esteem, also cheered on by clapping effects. The third track, ‘We All Need It’ has a creeping Rickenbacker bassline and ‘Knife Slits Water’ styled drum machine which is overcome by the cool jazz of Martin Moscrop’s hoppy Herbie Hancock guitar while focusing on Kerr’s dice with death; the latter part of the track sees buzzing synth effects with the elucidated lyrics, “Be yourself; that’s all that we all need,” that provide haunting, mantric wisdom.

The album then takes an even darker turn with the ominous tick of the springy ‘Surfer Ticket’; a track about AI, technology and video lifestyles in the Silicone Valley age. It’s heavily dubbed and sampled through Carey’s MPC to give it a cutty, hip-hop vibe, then paired with its successor, ‘Bitten by a Lizard’, which features more drum machine and a dominating percussive rhythm; the distant glow of the coldwave synth in the background is earth shattering and highly unusual for this band.

The more familiar funk and disco element of A Certain Ratio returns in the next segment with the chiming synth and guitar of ‘God Knows’; a utopian vision of a better world. The band’s cover of ‘Shack Up’ is reimagined for ‘Out from Under’; another song about Kerr’s medical recovery, its infectious groove makes this the most melody friendly and upbeat song on the album and a winning track. The band’s drummer, Donald Johnson, then narrates some spoken word for ‘Estate Kings’; the breezy, brassy feel is a return to ‘ACR Loco’ and its track ‘Taxi Guy’, written about Johnson’s upbringing in Wythenshawe, Manchester, the sound of which he describes as “Miles Davis meets ‘Shaft’ in a dark alley.”

The mind blowing release finishes on no small exit; with ‘Dorothy Says’ and its tangy, warped guitar, also fed through modular synths; it fills your ears with hazy reverb that at times competes with Kerr’s embittered vocals as if it’s a final fragmented transmission in this dystopian narrative. However, the album is ever-forward facing as its creators have always been towards a brighter future when they pick up that funky beat.

‘It All Comes Down to This’ is out now on neon pink vinyl, CD and digitally.

© Ayisha Khan.