Returning after a five-year absence, Mike Stroud and Evan Mast, a.k.a. Brooklyn electronic rock duo Ratatat, only heightened expectations when it was revealed that they had named their fifth studio effort Magnifique.
The long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s LP4 doesn’t quite live up to its boastful title, but there are enough flashes of inspiration amongst its 14 instrumentals to justify the pair’s apparent unwavering confidence.
“Drift” is an intriguingly spooky slice of chillwave which blends ghost house organs with the album’s prevalent sound, the slide guitar. “Pricks of Brightness” is the kind of shape-shifting proggy affair you’d expect from a classic Mike Oldfield record, while the sweeping strings and laid-back beats of the sumptuous “Magnifique” will no doubt become a staple of the Sunday morning chill-out compilation from now on.
The use of radio tuning samples to bridge the gap between several tracks is also an inspired idea. Likewise the dreamlike cover version of Springwater’s 1971 space-rock classic “I Will Return,” in which Ratatat make an unlikely bid to grace the closing scenes of a romantic teen drama.
However, Stroud and Mast aren’t always quite so adventurous, with the loping basslines, yacht-rock riffs and muted disco beats of lead single “Cream on Chrome” setting a template from which half of the record doesn’t even try to deviate. Indeed, take away the occasional sound effects and it would be difficult to distinguish between the likes of “Countach,” “Rome” and “Primetime,” while the two brief toy piano-led pieces that bookend the album are the pure definition of pointless.
Satisfaisant’ would therefore perhaps be a more suitable title, as although Magnifique isn’t the masterpiece that Ratatat claim, it’s still an appealing return-to-form from New York’s finest guitars and synths duo.