I first heard Ratatat back in 2008 at the release of LP3 and went back to their earlier work of their self-titled debut & their sophomore release, Classics, of which I thoroughly enjoyed in particular, having never heard anything like the style of Ratatat ever before. Just two guys playing guitar & bass, followed by drum machines and over-dubs galore, Mike Stround & Evan Mast have always been able to create guitar-central, instrumental jams, full of interesting and unusually placed samples. The best thing about Ratatat for me, was how fun and captivating they could make guitar music, and create awesome licks and harmony’s that, for completely instrumental music, never seemed like it was missing anything.
On their fifth record, Magnifique, the duo revert back to the sounds of their self-titled debut. Not that Ratatat has ever flown too far away from their unique sound, but in their slight experimentation’s on LP3 & LP4, Magnifique sees a more stripped down Ratatat, like that of their first release. Reversed guitar effects and however the hell they make their classic guitar slide noise, returning ever so obviously on “Cream on Chrome” aside, Magnifique is pretty true to form. Where Magnifique differs however, besides not being titled LP5, is that the drum machine programming and samples aren’t as intricate as they used to be.
While there isn’t anything as rich or innovative as “Wildcat,” off of 2006’s Classics, Magnifique still includes tracks like “Cream on Chrome” and “Countach,” which could, as AllMusic put it, “be lifted from the album for their greatest-hits collection.” One big surprise comes with track 13, “I Will Return,” however, where the duo did something they’ve never done before. Faded in towards the end, Mike & Evan provide background vocals. While it’s still just ooh’s and ah’s to add a different sound texture to the song, vocals up until this point had been unprecedented on a Ratatat album.
Where this album might feel bland at times compared to the excitement of earlier album favorites like “Wildcat,” “Lex,” or “Seventeen Years,” the tease from the last track of future albums featuring more vocals could be a potential great cliff-hanger to their 6th album. Even if vocals aren’t in their future, at least it’s nice to see on Magnifique that Ratatat stays true to form.