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Ratatat Rattles The Riv

By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 14, 2010 6:40PM

As a band, Ratatat is rather well known for piecing together simple layers of synthesizers, guitars, and mish-mash electronic samples with well-developed precision; as a venue, The Riviera is rather well known for acoustically making any sound created by an act register as if mud were being forced through the speakers.

With that, we were half expecting a sonic disaster due to venue choice for Ratatat’s Friday night show at The Riv. Instead, what the band lost in fine acoustic detail, in gained in out-and-out power; even with the speakers of our stereo cranked to 11, we’ve never heard Ratatat sound so ferocious.

The pounding hour-plus set covered much of the recently-released LP4, a less cohesive but still enjoyable effort from the New York duo. The inconsistency of the album played into the live show, even though new tracks like “Drugs,” and “Mahalo” were mixed in with the popular “Wildcat.” Still, without establishing a particular rhythm, Ratatat was still hyper-engaging and almost never slack. While samples played from computers, guitarist Mike Stroud spent a good amount of time wailing out riffs while striking over-the-top (yet somehow still un-ironic) guitar-god poses. Multi-instrumentalist Evan Mast darted about playing xylophone with a fuzzy mallet, or starting a melodica loop. Here the lack of quality sound probably helped the band out since the array of instruments never made the songs sound bloated and overworked. Whichever kitchen sink instruments Stroud and Mast incorporated, they fit like small, well-placed tiles in Ratatat’s electro-clash mosaic.

Another obvious reason for the nonstop party-like feel of the show was Ratatat’s visuals. Between lights, videos and projections, the effect was borderline seizure-inducing (and lots of fun nonetheless). Occasionally the band was joined onstage by holograms of them in powdered wigs, colonial-era getups and sunglasses, their virtual avatars accompanying on viola and cello. Behind them, films for their songs and other mash-ups played, scenes from Predator and Amazon documentaries re-cut with all the randomness of a Korean karaoke video.

Keeping the bass light and changing up the visuals kept the show’s pacing in check, and all the thumping and whirring, remarkably, never became leaden. Though they don’t sing, if Ratatat had lyrics, they would be exclusively communicated with comic book onomatopoeia: just choruses of “Whiiiir,” “Pow! Pow! Pow!” and “Buzzzzzzz!” It’s hardly serious stuff, but what Ratatat makes of it is well-crafted and easy to enjoy. Much like their glass screens onstage, with Ratatat’s music, you can project onto it pretty much anything you want.