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Ratatat

Classics
XL Records

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Ratatat describes itself as "instrumental"; I'd probably guess these guys were some kind of electronic laptop-pop outfit. If I didn't know any better. What I was surprised to find out is that many of these songs are performed live, using equal parts sampling and instrumentation.

 

Known originally as Cherry, before its appropriately onomatopoeic name change, Ratatat is made up of multi-instrumental computer-man Evan Mast and guitarist Mike Stroud. The project began in 2001 in the duo's spare time, which must be in short supply considering that Mast is co-owner of the Audio Dregs label and Stroud often provides guitar work in the studio or on tour with Dashboard Confessional. After signing with XL Records, Ratatat released its first, self-titled album in 2004.

 

On Classics, the pair's second offering, layers of percussive sounds build on one another to create primarily rhythmic arrangements ... with varying results. While much of the record will make your morning commute feel like a game of Spy Hunter, there are a few standout tracks. For example, "Wildcat" is bound to be overplayed on the dance floor, with its roller-disco bass line and repeating sample of a growling cougar. (Or is that a mountain lion?)

 

While much of the new record has an organic feel, even the guitar riffs sound a bit more like recordings of guitar riffs. If Ratatat were just some hipster tooling around on his iBook, I'd probably say Classics beats the hell out of a PowerPoint presentation. But knowing there are actual instruments involved, I can't help but ask, "Is that it?"

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