Stadium-Sized Instrumental Anthems
Evan Mast and Mike Stroud, the duo known as electronic-pop sound-landscapers Ratatat, have taken a fresh, guitar-based approach to their latest LP, Magnifique. The group debuted way back in 2004; over the last 10 years they have built a large following by producing some of the most interesting and memorable instrumental music of the new millennium.
Ratatat’s sound has always incorporated the six-string, but Magnifique dials the guitar heroics up a notch. Tracks like “Cream on Chrome,” “Rome,” and “Cold Fingers” are driven by their Brian May-inspired guitar leads, which successfully approach the over-the-top baroque pomposity of the stadium rock-god. Other fast-paced tracks like “Abrasive” and “Primetime” are given a heavy coating of brilliant day-glo fuzziness with a tone akin to the infectious 8-bit Sega Genesis platformer soundtracks of the 1990’s.
While bands like Fang Island have successfully appropriated these stadium-size clichés, few are able to sustain the magic over an entire full-length like Ratatat can. Offering chilled-out respites from the head-banging serves to make those hyper-energetic moments all the more exhilarating for the listener.
This is the kind of album that is meant to be played loudly, and as each track builds towards its epic climax the urge to turn up the volume correspondingly grows. Between the sultry, lulling soundscapes and the hard-hitting bangers, Magnifique is a very diverse set of instrumental rock and roll anthems.
Other moments on Magnifique serve to demonstrate Mast and Stroud’s instrumental dexterity and fascination with fading genres. There are Hawaiian-inspired steel slide guitar leads on “Supreme,” lamentation-filled country guitar on their cover of Springwater’s “I Will Return” and the soulful organ/steel guitar combination of “Drift.” Meanwhile, “Nightclub Amnesia” and “Countach” prove Ratatat have not completely forgotten the hip-hop leanings of their first four full-length releases.
Despite Magnifique’s slight sonic departure, it is diverse enough to be enjoyable for longtime fans while simultaneously gathering new fans of Ratatat’s sound; simply put, there is something for everyone. It can be difficult for artists to remain focused after four full-length releases, and this album shows Mast and Stroud still have a bevy of interesting musical ideas to explore and share with their audience.