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Ratatat ‘Magnifique’ – Album Review

XL (2015)

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.

3 / 5 stars     

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About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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Posted in: Album Reviews, Electronic Music, Featured


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