Classics |  XL
By MATT ASHARE  |  August 29, 2006
3.0 3.0 Stars

CLASSIC: Ratatat pick up where Trans Am pulled over circa 2000.
In the ’90s, it was the Chicago-based instrumental outfit Tortoise who got most of the attention for their radical departure from the rock norm — losing the vocalist/frontman in favor of exploratory instrumental compositions that mixed and matched trad bass/guitar/drum rock with electronics and, eventually, an expansive world-music sensibility. “Post-rock” was the scary name it acquired, but Tortoise were really just toying with what our parents called “prog.” It took Tortoise’s vocal-less DC cousins Trans Am to put the explanation on that point with their fondness for switching back and forth between analog-synthed Kraftwerks and organic riff-rock enhanced by Pearty (as in Neil from Rush) drumming replete with tricky time signatures, detailed cymbal work, and complex fills. The New York duo Ratatat pick up where Trans Am pulled over circa 2000, with instrumental songs that combine the laptop-pop prowess of Evan Mast with the rockist-guitar leanings of Mike Stroud. Except that instead of choosing one road or the other, they just combine it all into hooky songs that segue from clickety-clack drum ’n’ bass breakbeating to acoustic-guitar arpeggios (“Montana”), or from hip-hopped beatings to almost metallic guitar riffery (“Lex”), with an ambient breakdown and a harpsichord refrain thrown in. And that’s just the first two tracks. Ratatat never get as Daft funky or as outright punky as you’d want. But they never linger for too long in one place, and they throw more than enough cerebral curveballs to keep you on your musical toes.

RATATAT + ENVELOPES + PANTHER | Middle East downstairs, 480 Mass Ave, Cambridge | September 6 | 617.864.EAST

  Topics: CD Reviews , Mike Stroud, Evan Mast, RATATAT
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