NYC groove-masters Ratatat keep it simple | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

NYC groove-masters Ratatat keep it simple

With everyone and everyone's cousin pumping out beats on their PowerBooks nowadays, it's really not that hard to come by some decent electronic music. Hell, you could make some yourself. But for every thousand or so tech dudes making beats in their parents' basements, there comes a legitimate musical force that takes the act of sewing together a quilt of samples to an entirely different level. Simian Mobile Disco does that. So does MSTRKRFT, and, of course, Justice and Daft Punk.

Ratatat has fit nicely into that class for a few years now, albeit always just under the radar. The duo from (surprise!) New York City has been creating loose-limbed backroom rock for the past half-decade, with a few key differences separating it from, say, the bajillion or so electronic acts you could find in six seconds on MySpace.

The first difference is the production of these dance-funk gems. Guitarist Mike Stroud and synthesizer maestro Evan Mast quickly develop a groove and explore it like a dentist looking for cavities. Each tune's main beat is turned upside down and inside out while always maintaining its dirty garage-funk basis. These songs aren't interchangeable: Each track has a different whirlwind groove.

The second difference is Ratatat's insistence that simpler is better. Unlike a complex, loopy Simian Mobile Disco beat, Ratatat seems to know that a solid-gold groove can keep a listener's interest for a few minutes, without needing too much experimentation. These tunes will involuntarily nod your head and tap your foot without making your mind run laps.

A final difference is Ratatat's hesitation to use vocal samples. While many an electronic jam ties a beat to a vocal melody, Ratatat often forgets the human voice entirely, creating music just as atmospheric as it is room-shaking.

But like any intelligent musicians, Ratatat knows that shaking up the formula can't hurt. Maybe that's why the duo has released a street-worthy, hip-hop mixtape after each of its proper records, remixing bangers by Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Kanye West. Just try to hate Biggie's harder-than-nails "Dead Wrong" rethought as slinky, sleazy synth workout -- bet you can't.

Now, after a self-titled studio debut and its follow up, the subtly titled Classics, Ratatat has returned with LP3, full of so many different sounds it might as well be the next M.I.A. record played through an original Nintendo by both a hip-hop DJ and a mid-'70s arena guitarist.

Talk about an entirely different level.


Ratatat with E Rock and Panther guest. 6 p.m. (doors open) Fri., Aug. 29. Diesel, 1601 E. Carson St., South Side. $14 ($16 day of show). 412-431-8800 or

click to enlarge Simple herdsmen: Ratatat
Simple herdsmen: Ratatat

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