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Friday, January 22, 2016

Live: Still Ratatat after all these years

Posted by on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 12:45 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID FORD SMITH
  • Photo by David Ford Smith
Ratatat, Jackson and His Computerband
The Ritz, Raleigh
Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016

Let’s go back a little bit: In 2004, a relatively unknown Brooklyn band called Ratatat released a self-titled debut on XL Recordings. Within a few years, Ratatat became one of the largest success stories in indie music. Their pared-down instrumental rock fused guitar grandeur with hip-hop and the squawky remnants of electroclash to create something that was sonically exciting and accessible. On 2006’s Classics, we got a second serving. And on 2008’s LP3, a third. The heads loved it, of course, but by last year’s Magnifique, more than a few critics were questioning Ratatat’s continued decision to sound so damn much like Ratatat.

It’s easy to marathon Ratatat's five major records and gripe about the lack of variety, but I get the impression that Ratatat is into making the music its fans want to hear. Nothing drove this home more than seeing their sold-out set at The Ritz in Raleigh Tuesday night. Even if a lot of Ratatat's material sounds similar now, the set summarized what’s best about that and why I still listen to them sometimes—that is, the pair's ability to derive humor and heightened emotion from simple elements.

Jackson Fourgeaud, also known as Jackson and His Computerband, opened. Fourgeaud has released a handful of records on Warp during the last decade, most recently 2013’s Glow. I found a lot to like in the fractured, clubby textures of his tunes. Like most IDM, his music requires a bit of commitment; short of a few heads bobbing, most people chose to hang back and watch respectfully. I was reminded of when I saw the producer Jel play experimental hip-hop to blank stares before Sleigh Bells a few years back.

Ratatat took the stage shortly after. On record, their music can seem passive, as you can tune it out if needed.  But live, they force your attention. Even as an avowed Lightning Bolt fan, I forget how much noise just two people can make. With 16 songs and a 2-song encore, they packed in an impressively long set, sprinkling in popular early hits like “Seventeen Years” and “Wildcat” among new, lesser-loved material like “Nightclub Amnesia.” Every hit was met with deafening cheers, and Ratatat seemed in good spirits, too, cavorting among instruments. The mood was infectious.

It helped that Ratatat is currently touring with a light show of which Daft Punk would probably approve. Throughout the set, The Ritz was doused in milky neon clouds and rainbow lasers, ricocheting in every direction. Two large plexiglass screens flanked either side of the stage, projecting a rotating collection of surreal visuals: a twitching flock of birds, a baby with six arms, a statue being doused in gold.

But mostly birds. Man, Ratatat sure love birds.

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