Ratatat: New Grooves
from volume 03 issue 02 // Scott Harrell
As Ratatat, Evan Mast and Mike Stroud have spent the last five years tearing down the wall between guitar-driven indie-rock and glitchy, ultramodern laptop electronica. Their simultaneously beat-driven and atmospheric efforts have made them both underground-venue favorites and in-demand remix aritsts, and have helped to weaken the outdated yet enduring notion that making music on a computer is somehow less substantial than picking up a guitar or plinking away at a piano.
“I feel like we’ve established ourselves, and our sound,” says guitarist Stroud. “But there’s always gonna be old-school people who want to have that argument. But at least with younger people, it’s becoming more of a legitimate thing, to make stuff … electronically or whatever, rather than like a Bob Dylan singer-songwriter type thing.”
Which isn’t to say Mast and Stroud are against the more organic styles of music-making. They tour regularly, and for the making of their aptly-named third full-length LP3, the duo left the confines of their Brooklyn HQ to record at Old Soul Studios, a glorified country house in the Catskills brimming with vintage organs, instruments and equipment.
“It put a different twist on it,” Stroud says. “It was just really inspiring, being surrounded by harpsichords and pianos. It was a very positive environment, and it was just the two of us in this big house, working all the time.”
The resulting songs are somehow warmer than much of Ratatat’s back catalog, yet retain plenty of the project’s signature guitar trickery, rhythms and crisp, super-contemporary edge. What at first listen sounds surprisingly laid-back gradually reveals its busy, lively inner layers; traditional hand-drums and other percussion instruments are processed to hypnotic effect without sacrificing their innate and instantly recognizable reality. LP3 is admittedly somewhat lighter on electronic beats, but here the energy and drive come from congas and bongos, from swells of organ and jaunty piano lines and multiple guitar harmonies.
“I guess it is pretty mellow overall,” Stroud muses. “There are a couple of intense songs, but I think the next record is gonna be more dancy.”
LP3 is also, for lack of a better word, more druggy than some previous Ratatat releases. Or perhaps druggy in a different sense; where a disc like ’06′s Classics often evokes the speedy, metallic buzz of a lab-crafted designer drug, LP3 can seem contemplative and pleasantly freaked out and naturally hallucinogenic.
“There may be something to that,” says Stroud with a laugh. “Part of that is due to the bunch of old ’70s keyboards at Old Soul that definitely helped with that kind of sound.
“And, we may have been doing drugs.”
Ratatat’s LP3 comes out July 8 on XL Recordings.