Music

Ratatat: LP3

Sometimes the innate rhetoric of a photo conveys more meaning than any arrangement of scorching electric guitars and timid beats.


Ratatat

LP3

Label: XL
US Release Date: 2008-07-08
UK Release Date: 2008-07-07
Amazon
iTunes

Haling from Brooklyn, the electronic duo Ratatat -- Mike Stroud, guitars, and Evan “E*vax” Mast, synthesizers and production -- have shot into underground indie prominence since their 2004 self-titled debut. Originally releasing their first single “Seventeen Years” on Evan and his brother’s Audio Dregs label, the group soon began earning serious attention for it (a Hummer ad) and their entire seminal album of high-energy, high-pitched, electronic baroque. Subsequent remixes, as aggregated on Ratatat Remixes Vol. 1, helped extend their viral presence to the point of fashion show videos and soundtracks (Marc Jacobs, Chanel and Louis Vuitton) and commercials (Rhapsody).

Their 2006 sophomore release Classics was well received and lauded as their best yet but, at the same time, raised the question of what the excitement was all about. Its innocuously distorted electronic pop melodies were easily digestible, if not grabbing the listeners’ attention, as they modulated within each meticulously mapped out track. The album was more or less a discombobulated assortment of electronic hooks that lacked any sort of ebb and flow. But heavy attention and praise continued, leading to world tours with the likes of Björk, Daft Punk, Interpol, CSS, Clinic, Franz Ferdinand, the Killers, and Mogwai in the last few years.

LP3, their latest effort, is very much a continuation, and refinement, of their winning formula: fastidious programming, squealing distorted guitars, and twittering bubble gum melodies. Lacking is the throbbing beat and bass foundation that their proclaimed love of hip-hop should propagate. In an interview with AudioJunkies, Mast said, "Hip-hop is the godfather to Ratatat's child. Hip-hop will be Ratatat's best man when Ratatat marries Rihanna. We are blood brothers.” Equally disparate is any visceral connection to their sound. It’s cheery, but emotionally resistant, awash in melodies each more distortion-soaked or harpsichord-like than the next. More than anything, however, LP3 is a reminder of the group’s tiring treble electro pop ethos and the consequences of single-minded hyper-production.

Like in past Ratatat fashion, the sound of Stroud’s guitar, in all its neon-hue distorted glory, is searing and prominent. And never does it sound more grandiose than during its entrance on the opening track, “Shiller” -- an otherwise docile keyboard track with undulating sheen. It triumphs as a harmonized chorus over a teeming laser gun-battle in the background.

Aside from Tetris-toned guitars, old-fashioned pipe organs evoke old-school carousel rides, but to psychedelic and disco twists. “Bird Priest” chugs and cranks along, like it’s the “Wonka Wash”, over its piped chord progression while “Imperials” is a more rhythmic but sinister sounding take on the carousel theme. It’s a motif that could be allegorical, but instead it’s blithe and inconsequential.

An assortment of tracks meddles in international elements without ever establishing any leitmotiv, or achieving cultural transcendence or musical syntheses. Not as Middle-Eastern sounding as the name suggests, “Mumtaz Khan” borrows beats from “Lebanese Blonde” before morphing into a tabla heavy rhythm with ornamental Turkish zils. But the dissonant scraping chords ultimately leave it culturally amorphous, as do the blaring electric guitars. “Mirando” incorporates a distinct yet faint Japanese banjo and “Mi Viejo” also borrows its ethereal melody for an introduction. The latter also features tablas as the basis of the beat over a barely audible churning mix of oscillating effects. Curiously, “Flynn” whose spectral chord progression is decisively reggae (steel drums included) lacks any beat. Reggae, or even implied reggae, with no rhythm is like Rasta blasphemy, the track drifting towards Babylon.

Ratatat is plenty capable of creating great music. Both “Falcon Jab” and “Shempi” are abundant in areas where their other work is deficient: a defining beat, anchoring bass tones, and overall perceptibility. The former begins with a melodic cyber swarm of Robo-bees that rescind and reappear over a funk guitar infused beat. The swarm’s continuous crescendos and decrescendos add depth. “Shempi” immediately takes off with a pipe organ chord structure continually augmented by Justice-like industrial grade cranks and bubbling beeps. Around the one-minute mark, an organ melody, that ignites a pixilated dance frenzy throughout, prevails over the densely layered sounds.

Full of their signature sprightly melodies, blinding electric guitars, and croaking distorted effects Ratatat’s newest release goes neither above nor beyond. Though glimpses of possibility exist (“Falcon Jab” and “Shempi”), and the album is a more coherent and epic expression than previous works, it still fails to excite and mobilize. In other words, variations on a Ratatat theme pervade on LP3. After peaking with their tried and true formulas, the group -- unintentionally reaching predictability and mediocrity -- should look to evolve their sound beyond the arcade and into the dance clubs, and one’s soul.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Film

Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, 'Venom' is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.

Books

Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.

Music

Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.

Film

Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Music

Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.

Music

Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.

Music

2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.

Music

Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez

Music

Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.

Music

"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.

Music

The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.

Film

Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.