Thankfully Ratatat are more creative in their music than they are in choosing titles for their records. The duo of guitarist Mike Stroud and programmer/multi-instrumentalist Evan Mast may not be adept at naming their albums but they are skilled musicians and have managed to settle into a discriminate groove by combining elements of classical, jazz, electronica and guitar-rock into an interesting and unique musical hybrid.
As the title suggests, this is the duo’s 4th LP, and although it lacks the raw energy of the band’s self-titled debut, it shows a continuing evolution on the distinctive guitar and bass hooks that form the foundation of their signature sound. Floating sound effects drift through the smoothly shifting synths, whirring guitar riffs and jaunty percussive beats as the layered compositions on LP4 exhibit a little more experimentation in the arrangements and act as refinements on Ratatat’s continually improving formula. Like they upgraded the carpeting and wallpaper in the room while keeping the classic, stylish furniture.
This time around the complex yet playful instrumental interplay includes hints of ethnic rhythms, prog-rock cadences and short, spoken-word sample interludes and skittering vocal mumblings, the closest thing the duo has come to actual vocals yet. But rather than develop slowly, the songs engage the listener immediately with multiple shifts in style and tempo, encompassing a myriad of smooth transitions while managing to create a pleasant imagery out of the scintillating swirl of sound.
What makes these songs special however, is how the inclusion of string instruments, digital noises and even some stray organic sounds add a certain depth to the songs whose captivating appeal is only revealed with repeated plays. Only then do you realize that these songs are not only cool and catchy, but they’re intricately constructed on rhythms and beats that are both dynamic and complex.
Instrumental music of this sort can often be misconstrued as non-rock or New-Age, but Ratatat’s music should not be dismissed because of it’s lack of vocal content. It is instrumental rock music that is experimental, emotional, colorful, and engaging, while skillfully blurring many musical boundaries.
(DJ Ambient contributed to this review)
Recommended If You Like (RIYL): E*vax, Pinback, Rambient, Sleep Whale, Alan Holdsworth and Happy The Man