Review Summary: A fun record which promises to hook itself in your memory.
Ratatat is a NYC duo consisting of guitarist Mike Stroud and keyboardist/synthesizer producer Evan Mast. The group began their career on the label Rex Records, where they released the single “Seventeen Years”. Eventually they signed to XL Recordings, where they unveiled their debut, Ratatat/
. Released in in April of 2004 and recorded between July 2001 and May of 2003, it features their enjoyable blend of danceable pop, hip-hop, and ambience.
The opening track on “Ratatat” is “Seventeen Years”. It is by far their most commercially successful track of theirs, featured in a TV ad and more recently during a scene in the film Cloverfield. Its success indicates if nothing else that it is a very catchy track, with its slick distorted melody, and very hip beat. “El Pico” continues grooving with another harmonious melody and nice beat in the background making it as danceable as the first track. Towards the end of the track there is a break before the song begins to build, utilizing a muted guitar harmony in the background; if it doesn’t make you want to get up and move, nothing will.
After that, the album takes you on a journey displaying Ratatat's talent for penning atmospheric phrases, as well as the aforementioned fever-inducing hipper moments. The problem with that is the ambient side is rather dull. An example is “Everest”. A decent track, it fails to take the listener anywhere. It has a working melody and smooth chord progression, but it doesn't amount to much. At the same time, “Bustelo”, also a more atmospheric track is actually one of my favorites, just for its opening melody alone. It then filters off into a more obscure section, but the opening computer based groove is enough to make it a standout track.
The entire album is instrumental, unless you count the spoken interludes by rapper Young Churf which appear intermittently on the album. And although instrumental albums can be hard to really snag your attention, this album manages to do so by its chic opening tracks which enumerate some terrific dance-pop, and the occasionally impressive ambient tracks occupying the latter half of the record. The atmospheric feel definitely grows monotonous at times, but it is still well done. It is likely that after listening to this album, if nothing else, you will get it stuck in your head.