Ratatat are a Brooklyn duo who bridge the gap between epic instrumental guitar rock and indie lo-fi electronica, using loops, and drum machines to complement the prominent guitar melodies and pulsing bass lines. On Friday they brought the first show of their tour to Webster Hall with an impressive light show and smoky stage performance that had the sold out Manhattan crowd head bobbing and raving for an all-too-early 9pm show.

Friday was also the release date of their highly anticipated 5th album entitled Magnifique, their first album in five years and follow up to 2010’s LP4. Leading up to their show, the audience was abuzz talking about how exciting the new album was, and people who hadn’t heard it were asking for feedback from those who had. It was clear that 2015 was perfect timing for Ratatat to return.

As the lights lowered the name of the band lit up in bright strobe lights silhouetting the foggy figures of Mike Stroud and Evan Mast holding their respective guitars next to a conglomeration of synth equipment.  The most inspiring part of the set was how Stroud and Mast built their loops and drum machines organically on stage. In addition to guitar and bass lines, the duo looped some synthesizer lines, added drum machines, played some percussion, and even brought out a melodica for a mesmerizing line or two.

While on guitar Stroud strutted around, coming to the edge of the stage and interacting with the crowd. It would have been more effective had the band’s physical presence not been (mostly) swallowed by fog and strobe lights, but it was charismatic nonetheless. Mast balanced out the flamboyance, laying down the foundational beats and dancey bass lines to a great reaction from the crowd.

The most difficult part about the set was the misalignment of tone between the stage show and the performance. In a superficial sense, Ratatat looked like a rave, with all the high grade light shows and powerful projector screen with trippy images. It fit with my experiences of a band like Lotus, Four Tet, or even Shpongle. However, unlike those bands, Ratatat’s music is more compositional and song-oriented, and when the songs ended, the mood deflated. Only then to start again!

That being said, Ratatat had some really great moments. The best song of the set was the old staple of the band “Wildcat,” which dates back to their seminal 2006 album Classics, and was backed by a trippy multi-faced lion projection. Another highlight was the new single from Magnifique “Cream on Chrome” which was reminiscent of Daft Punk’s rollicking disco funk and characteristic lead guitar lines that threw everyone into a manic frenzy. Check them out this summer if you get the chance, and check out their latest LP Magnifique on XL Records.


Article: Steven Klett


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