RATATAT: LP3 (XL Recordings)


Posted on Jul 23rd 2008 11:58 pm

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XL Recordings 2008
13 Tracks. 42mins24secs

It’s not easy to categorize Ratatat.  The Brooklyn-based duo of Evan Mast and Mike Stroud embrace a diverse smattering of styles, picking and choosing to create a kind of Frankenstein creation that is, damn the term, perhaps best referred to as simply “electronica”.  Like the big beat, maximal French house, and jungle recordings that fit the late-nineties press categorization of “electronica”, Ratatat are making electronic compositions from a song-based mind state.  Counter to the exhausting, minimal repetitions, which categorize much of techno, house, and other defiantly non-song-based electronic fields, Ratatat’s songs (not tracks) focus on melody and resolution.  Most songs on LP3, in fact, feature at least one instrument that sounds as though it’s trying to sing lyrics, and tell a story.

If the first two Ratatat albums centered on the merger of stomping electro beats and angular guitars, LP3 steers more toward majesty, incorporating Latin influences and more subtle polyrhythms into the mix.  The merger of old and new Ratatat is front and center on Mirando, the album’s strongest cut.  Over some squawking percussion loops, the sweetly odd harmonic guitar that as been the trademark sound of many a Ratatat joint makes its return, shredding along as what is basically the “singer” here.  It makes sense to see this new style pop, as Spanish classical guitar pieces similarly use the six-string to reveal an engaging story.  Piano and string stabs round out Mirando to structure a playfully cavernous vibe, a more spacious and laid back cousin to Jackson’s ‘antique futurism’.

Along with this new majestic sound comes a well-needed dose of compositional restraint; Ratatat avoid blowing the wad of a piece within its first minute, a problem all-too-common in past albums.  Shiller, the first single, takes its full four minutes to develop, exploring different avenues of ambience and melody, for a truly engaging experience.  Elsewhere, this new restraint pops up in slower and less pounding percussion, such as the elegant rain of static over simple drums on Bruleé, that allows for the listener to drink in the playful melody.  Gipsy Threat relies on a few bongo hits to lay the rhythmic foundation for its dreamy synth wanderings and backward strings.

Taken in short doses, LP3 doesn’t really cut it.  The songs here are entirely reliant on being given time to grow; there are no 30-second samples or hooks that can do justice for the material here.  More than ever before, Ratatat are the thinking man’s electro act, with LP3 as their most confident, cohesive and engaging release yet.


Ratatat | XL Recordings
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