Ratatat – LP4 Review

26 May

Ratatat have come full circle, drawing on what initially made the group so enticing while harnessing their matured craft.

It is the battle Ratatat have been waging since their first release: musicality sacrificed for production.  Thus the resulting music was compromised by repetitious material, embryonic ideas often neglected in pursuit of that “Ratatat sound”: the soaring lead-guitars, the clicky piano hits, the whistling string arrangements, the fuzzy synth-bass, the baroque harpsichord, and those arppegiated blips drenched in reverb.  It is why their previous release, LP3, though undeniably distinguishable as the Brooklyn based-duo, came out flat.  There was nothing to tantalize our ears beyond dense and busy arrangements.  It was techy, convoluted, and torpid – and though the rich production might be admirable, LP3 lacked those simplistic yet adored hooks from Classics and their self-titled debut.

LP4 bridges this disconnection.  Stamped with the usual “Ratatat” earmarks, the album is a conflation of their melodious youth and seasoned prowess.  The instrumentation is delicately layered to let those nuances bubble to the top,  leaving space for the catchy and raw “hum-along” melodies to breathe.  It was what LP3 should have been, and aesthetically, LP4 holds many similarities to its predecessor.  Yet with LP4 the duo is sensitive to melodic subtleties and the forced, sterile efforts in LP3 are replaced by a sweeter and cleaner approach: melodies slink in and out of the arrangement seamlessly, interacting in ways that are sophisticated yet remain lucid.  And for the first time since their debut, the duo relies on vocal samples (taken from an interview with actress Linda Manz).  These brief clips interspersed throughout the album, capture a humanistic character so often lost in computer music, but also pay homage to their youthful roots: how can one forget the Young Churf shout-out in the introduction of “Seventeen Years?”  Thus Ratatat have come full circle, drawing on what initially made the group so enticing while harnessing their matured craft.

From the bottom-dropping opener “Bilar” to the reserved “Mahalo,” the range of dynamics on the album also seems representative of this musical growth: the tracks tweeter between a frothing, agitated insistence, ready-to-spill-over-the-water-dam at any given moment, to a more subdued, stinging melancholy.  “Drugs” and “Neckbrace” and “Grape Juice City” are the albums finest, sparkling with popping percussion and growling synths.  While  “We Can’t Be Stopped,” “Alps”  and the tumbling “Bob Gandhi” offer a more relaxed, lackadaisical air of a summer evening at the local surfing hot spot.  The selection of tracks is diverse, and listening to the album as a whole encompasses nine years of the duo’s sweat and labor.  Thus Lp4 is an album of standard; the refined sounds and meticulous arrangements are what Ratatat have longed to grasp since their debut.  From the catchy-synth pop of their early meddling, to the pristine and crisp production of their latest efforts, it is this marriage of past and present that arouses not only an exciting listen but content of noticeable maturity.

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