Diehard music fans in the know will tell you SONOS Studio has quickly become the best place to see free music in Los Angeles from top-notch acts. Many shows are open to the public with an RSVP, but some are private invite-only affairs. On August 3 we were there to cover an intimate DJ set by the xx’s Jamie xx. Last night, we were thrilled to have a chance to see a rare club show from laptop guitar duo Ratatat.
While the free beer flowed, KCRW’s Jason Bentley introduced the night as a taping for air on the LA tastemaker station. Mike Stroud and Evan Mast of the band sat on stools and attempted to answer informative questions about their new album, Magnifique. Not surprisingly, Stroud and Mast had little to offer in terms of insight into their creative process. They did their best to answer, but it was pretty apparent public pontification is not their strong suit.
A few minutes later it was all over though, and they picked up their instruments and began a brief but powerful seven-song set. This being a rare opportunity to see the band up close, it was possible to see Stroud is responsible for all of the impressive guitar licks live, while Mast is on bass, though filtering it through a variety of effects and occasionally distortion. The duo bangs out riffs with fervent energy while occasionally triggering various tracks and simple keyboard lines. “Cream on Chrome” came first, and the backdrop displayed repeated footage of oddly mutated babies with 8 arms. The band’s music is always impressive because of the enveloping texture they employ. Water-y synths and pitter-patter beats ultimately explode into octave-altered shredding licks. LP3 track “Mirando” was especially impressive as its three minutes all seem built for the final pentatonic lick.
Amidst the hypnotic projected visuals, the band utilized a reduced piece of their elaborate visual array in the studio. Four luminous laser lights would periodically punctuate each song’s high points, somehow, impossibly, a beam that could be 4 colors at once. The most aggressive of the tracks played appropriately wrapped things up in the form of “Seventeen Years.” It’s a wonderful thing to see this band, as they manage to control their own little unique island while the rest of music is pigeonholed (often rightfully so) into one immobile genre. They can appeal as well to instrument dorks, rock fans, indie nerds and dance enthusiasts.
Photo credit: Erik Voak