Ratatat know wailing guitar licks and distorted reverbs. Five albums deep and the duo from Brooklyn have offered up a record that is exactly what original fans of their first release love about Ratatat. Magnifique is loud; it’s playful and tugs at the fringes of rock, electronica and pop. While five years has passed since their last album LP4, guitarist Mike Stroud and producer Evan Mast have remained within their domain, swaying ever so slightly towards a nostalgic sound with tracks ‘Drift’ and ‘Supreme.’
Magnifique is bookended with an intro and outro that feature a classic light rock guitar and piano that sounds so sober and chirpy it could be on a child’s TV show. And I say that will complete positivity; part of Ratatat’s appeal is that they like to experiment with peculiar sounds. It wouldn’t be a Ratatat single without a strange, senseless sample at the end, like you can hear on their past track, ‘Bare Feast’.
The record’s first single, ‘Cream on Chrome’ is a full-on groove, led effortlessly by a funky guitar riff with levelled distortion. Lasting for around four minutes, the single sounds like it could get boring, but it definitely does not. Each construct is like the first with that extra kick of distortion championing it a groovy dance floorfiller. ‘Abrasive’ on the other hand gears towards an experimental rock sound and is unlike other tracks on the record. It definitely gives off vibes from The Stroke’s Is This It album – without the vocals and aggressiveness, sitting somewhere between ‘Take It Or Leave It’ and ‘Soma.’
Then Ratatat pull out ‘Countach’ and it’s a welcomed reminder of the hip-hop production and blooping synth that I’d come to love. Offering up a plucky bass line that is dense and warm, Ratatat introduce a sliding guitar riff that skitters and sashays into an aerated groove. My ears prick up for ‘Nightclub Amnesia’; the first track that shows signs of a heavier electronic reference. As the longest track on Magnifique, I am captured by the sound of gurgling guitar that levels out and swaggers into smooth ebbs and a squealing synth lines.
The second half of the album is mellower and a little like their first two records, Ratatat and Classics. Tracks like ‘Pricks of Brightness’ and ‘Drift,’ feel like a ride that steadily carries your higher and higher, with various peaks, and then plateaus when they introduce their quirky ending. The wailing and nostalgic sound of Springwater’s 1972 track ‘I Will Return’ is a strange track choice for me. The howling, longing guitar throws me off guard but after listening to it in conjunction with the outro, it strikes me as a nice, delicate way to end.
I’m so accustomed to the Ratatat that is constituted by duelling guitars, epic instrumentalism and piercing melodies. Their last two records, LP3 and LP4, stand as albums that need to be listened to through headphones to completely drain out the rest of the world. Magnifique on the other hand, is more melodious and a softer slice of Ratatat. It is one of those albums that mark the shift back to their foundations, to when they first dropped onto the scene in 2004 with their self-titled album – you can sit there and listen to in full and not even realise it. Each song flows into each other and while there are points that are electric, the overall feel of the album is quite balanced and smooth.
Magnifique is out now on XL Records.