Album Review: C’est Magnifique, Ratatat

The New York duo unleash an earthquake of electropop with their first new album in five years.

By Ramona DeNies July 23, 2015

“Cream on Chrome,” “Pricks of Brightness,” “Cold Fingers”—the tracks that comprise Magnifique, the fifth studio album (released July 17) from New York instrumental duo Ratatat, evoke nothing if not the tactile obsessions of a band in love with goosebumps.

Ratatat magnifique cover art sghm3d

There’s shattered glass, the slow rip of Velcro, pedal steel guitar ooowaahhhing like a cowboy into the horizon, farty bleeps straight out of a vintage arcade console, even baroque orchestral thrills, all mixed into electropop so disarmingly catchy it’ll draw even the stoniest-faced bro onto the dance flo’

That it took five years to hear Magnifique should make the 12-track album’s grandeur even sweeter for Ratatat fans. Evan Mast and Mike Stroud don’t break from the dirty synth sound of 2010’s LP4 (or their eponymous 2004 debut album), but their new tunes—bookended by a fuzzed-out intro/outro—do shake that familiar ground like a quakin’ San Andreas.

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Evan Mast and Mike Stroud. Photo credit: Asger Carlson.

Album opener "Cream on Chrome"—video below—got an early release in May, foreshadowing a return to the duo's quirky brand of atmospheric club candy. There's the gentle underlay of breezy steel drum in "Countach" (the album was partly conceived in Jamaica), a mournful (dobro?) wahwah on "Drift," and the greasy, spitty, chunky keyboard loops of "Nightclub Amnesia." Then, charmingly, there's Ratatat's first-ever cover, "I Will Return"—a tribute to a virtuosic one-man slide guitar act called Springwater, discovered via a 1972 episode of the Lawrence Welk show.

Here's Mast on the fourth track—the “grimy,” anthemic “Abrasive”: “It almost sounds like guitars on steroids. I like having that intensity and then getting down to tape hiss, where you can hear the amp that’s dying.”

Next week, that dying amp wails live in Portland, for the third stop in a four-month US tour. Wednesday’s Roseland show has been sold out for weeks, but it wouldn’t be fair to leave ticketless fans empty-handed. Feast your ears on these clips, Ratatatians!

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