Ratatat – Magnifique Review

New York duo Mike Stroud and Evan Mast make up instrumental duo Ratatat and last week they released their fifth studio album Magnifique on XL Recordings. In being an instrumental band, there is an added focus upon the musicality of the songs and indeed they have to be even more dynamic and varied in order to maintain interest and a following of the song. Luckily for them, this seems to have became a speciality of dance and electronic musicians in recent times as these genres have been able to cultivate such a sound with Daft Punk being the most common along with the Knife and Factory Floor along more experimental lines, but even they use vocalists at times. The question for Ratatat is what do they have to offer after over a decade?

‘Abrasive’ begins with a muted, rotating percussion section and slowly eases in new elements such as the standard early 21st century riffs and just as dated a pop beat. Once the whirring synths come in the song finds it’s rhythm and becomes a catchy and simple tune, but then from this point it’s unchanged and rather unnervingly it starts to sound like a Metro Station track with a few well placed filters placed upon it and maybe a little more flair. ‘Cream on Chrome’ has more sophisticated guitar work which spreads to the bass line with a ensuing grove feel to it. The distorted synths fall upon this groove in a well placed fashion to highlight the rough melodies and some smooth transitions and soundscapes come to fruition once the synths fall away and the audible focus on the rhythm section is dulled. You do feel however, that Daft Punk perfected this type of format much better a decade ago.

You get a similar feeling with ‘Nightclub Amnesia’ with similarly warped and distorted beats shifting in and out of focus. From this the heavy churn of the guitars arrive with a very familiar wiry lead guitar. The song does go on to build and deconstruct it’s sounds well and this track features a very smooth change in instrumentation as a beneficiary of this. Sadly the song becomes very familiar again after this but it’s rhythmic and a little infectious nonetheless. The string samples that open the title track are followed by relaxed riffs and a gently rocking bass line. Somehow though, those wiry riffs even make an appearance onto this leisurely affair. This song did seem a bit lost, but throwing in such an untailored riff simply drove them off into musical wilderness. Drift has a similar feel with it’s dulled organ-like electronica, but it’s fairground/Ice Hockey game type aesthetic sound just as lost in translation as the other track. The only point of note is the introduction of some percussion. Either way it’s certainly a song for idling to which seems to be what they were doing when they made this one. Songs such as ‘Pricks of Brightness’ merely sound like attempts at adding pop dressing onto a Strokes track circa 2001. This sums up this album. It’s bare instrumentation sounds incredibly dated when it isn’t completely directionless and it’s almost as if they’ve made an album for a vocalist, yet they’ve misplaced the vocalist. Despite some moments of catchiness and the odd piece of smooth production this album almost feels like a throwaway and I suggest they look to The Knife, Factory Floor, Jamie XX or even the Manic Street Preachers for a little instrumental inspiration.

Ratatat – Magnifique = 5.5/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

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