Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ratatat: LP4

     Hailing from New York, Ratatat are an electronic duo composed of Mike Stroud on guitar and Evan Mast from Audio Dregs on bass and synthesiser. LP4 is their fourth official album, and is famously said to have been recorded during the same studio session as their previous record. In preparation for this review, I have looked back over some of the groups earlier discography, in particular LP3, in an effort to understand where the band are coming from. In my eyes, LP3 doesn't sound as interesting or  sonically varied as this album. It almost feels as though the band kept most of the good stuff back from the afore-mentioned recording session, and threw all their brilliance into this twelve track record. Also, before I begin, big thanks for Jake Dolan for introducing me to Ratatat!
     The sound from these guys is one of experimentation with the electronic beats, rather than mindless dance music. It incorporates guitars and bass and synthesisers in a passionate mix that feels heart-felt and thought-provoking. Variety isn't a problem with this record either, which was a worry I had going into this review. The band manages to have the fast-paced balance perfectly with the slow, which is a joy to listen to. The dynamics, the sound, the atmosphere. All these elements are here, in peaceful union, to create something inspiring and frankly, quite spectacular.
     The album starts off with a drone-like hum, which escalates into an explosion of noise. Within the beats lie coin drops, paper tears and arcade bleeps. These sounds merge to form a melody that fades out halfway through the track. Inhuman groans that wouldn't seem misplaced in War of the Worlds are backed by a regimental rhythm and a somehow oriental feel. These fade out again into a sampled French monologue that marks the beginning of the next song. If I were forced to choose, then I would have to say that the third track 'Neckbrace' is one of my favourite. The previous song's electric guitar and warped vocals near the end lead into another, less moody sample. The thing that stood out during this track though, were the electrified groans and catchy melody. Fantastic!
     Most of the other tracks are fantastic as well, though, I must say. From 'We Can't Be Stopped's scuttling intro to 'Mahalo's old-fashioned one, all of the songs have something different to them that I love. 'Sunblock' starts and ends with jungle noises, with birds singing and grasshopper's croaking , all the while backing some brilliant guitar. 'Grape Juice City' has some great drums that run through the track, and the album ends with the thoughtful and soothing 'Alps'. Overall, these are some of the best experimental electronic sounds I've heard after Brian Eno and Nicholas Jarr. A record I'll be returning to frequently, I hope you do the same!