Ratatat have claimed a genre no one else wanted, instrumental rap, and they have become known for that rap beat and guitar rhythm instrumental combo that screams composition. How many non-instrumental bands can claim that; how many bands period? While the predecessor, LP4, was instrumentally and rhythmically fine, it lacked a certain flare, and was underwhelmingly quiet compared to their previous albums. One had to wonder what the mood of their follow up would be after such a distinct change.
If the single, “Abrasive” is any indication, Magnifique is more colourful and energetic. “Abrasive” races back and forth in the type of repetitive jam that few bands can attempt. In a way, this is most similar to post punk bands like Wire, who rely on minimalism, and foremost repetition. Ratatat is good at repetition, but sometimes they like to just lay down beats and keyboards, which they are also good at. It is the in between genres where their music lies, and it shines the brightest when their guitars run wild.
That said, all of this is not possible without some great chord progressions and bass lines. “Abrasive” has those, and so does another single, “Cream on Chrome”, which follows up in spirit to “Kennedy” or “El Pico” off of previous albums. A rumbling bass line and a great repeating beat are accompanied by a nice little guitar mini solo. “Nightclub Amnesia” is a solidly fitting bass romp for modern bars. Forgetting that techno has taken a poppy turn for the worse, it emulates techno in a way that is pretty solid, especially in the drums.
The same can’t be said for some songs, which continue Ratatat’s interesting song titles, but fail to capture with the drums and bass they attempt. One gets the sense that if the drums had been expounded upon some might have been better tracks. “Countach” or “Intro” for example, but then there is a song like “Drift” which so clearly treads into a mix of indie and lo fi ballad music Ratatat traditionally avoids. “Magnifique” and “Rome” follow a similar arc, drifting through quiet though emotional riffs.
Many of the songs, such as “I Will Return”, “Pricks of Brightness” or “Supreme”, go one step further, invoking an eastern and light mood. They are not quite as lo-fi, but not as emotional either, and therefore not needing to be. Again, the lack of more intense drums may hurt these tracks, but they are good for what they are, as if Ratatat decided they just wanted to jam out on the beach for a few months. The titles are good too, what does “Nightclub Amnesia”, “Cold Fingers” or “Cream on Chrome” mean? In previous albums one wondered about “Bob Gandhi”, “Crips”, or “Shempi”. Even more so, the album is fittingly titled, “Magnifique”, or artistic, musicianship is key here.
This album feels like rainbow colors everywhere. Which is perfect for a band that is so free of lyrics or political notions. Music is sound, and the type of sound you want to hear at one in the morning or leaving a supermarket is not done in pop or heavy handed rap, and is not political either. Here there is Ratatat, more colors in my noise please.