Hearing the eponymous Ratatat debut LP for the first time as a fresh-faced 18 year old is something that will stay with me for all my days.
Like nothing I had ever heard before, the shock, the awe, and the appreciation all came in equal measure for a genre I’m yet to find another artist belonging to. And in the 10 or so years since that release, the New York duo have shown that they indeed own that genre because well, it’s their own genre.
Thankfully, the same feelings are still mustered with new offering Magnifique – and then some. Whilst the spirit of Ratatat tracks from yesteryear can be heard in lead single “Cream on Chrome” – which slowly builds to an ebulliently unnerving crescendo – and the jarring-yet-magnetic “Nightclub Amnesia”, there also comes a softer side to Ratatat rarely heard before.
The soft, almost classically-tuned verses of “Magnifique” are delightful to the ear – something I couldn’t say of many tracks on previous releases. As is the lulling “Supreme”, which effortlessly ebbs and flows in a dreamlike state – providing both a perfect juxtaposition to, and a welcome break from, the heavier tracks.
The somewhat nightmarish tracks of previous releases – akin to getting stuck in Tron while tripping on LSD – now also seem to take a lighter tone. As if recorded with Brian Wilson et al in a beachside Hawaiian studio, there’s a definite ‘Aloha’ feel to tracks like “Drift” – making the LP on the whole, more accessible than those that came before it.
And whilst this kind of musical contrast is something they have always strived for in previous releases, the execution on the duo’s latest LP is really something to be admired. No more so than in the matching of angelic keys with distorted, devilish guitars of ‘Cold Fingers’.
Also to be lauded is the way in which duo (guitarist Mike Stroud and producer Evan Mast) can time and time again prove that a voice isn’t necessarily needed to produce vocal brilliance. Arguably the best track on the album, the guitars on “Rome” sing in a way that no voice ever could, as they build layer upon layer to produce a cacophonous racket of epic proportions.
Ratatat are musical marmite – they’re too experimental and abrasive not to be. And whilst I don’t think this LP is going to do that much to change that, as a lover of both Ratatat and their yeast extract counterpart; I think their latest offering Magnifique is just that.