People have called the music of Ratatat a marriage of indie rock and electronic music, or electropop. But however you describe it, the Brooklyn-based band makes songs with beginnings, middles and ends, and with changes, progressions, crescendos and releases along the way. If that sounds too dense for pop music, the full-house audience at the Ogden Theatre last night seemed to feel differently.
Ratatat kept the crowd excited throughout a 90-minute set of crisp mixes and playing that was matched seamlessly to videos. Guitarist Mike Stroud and bassist Evan Mast met in college and have been producing electronic-flavored instrumental music since 2001. The absence of vocals certainly highlights the compositions. But their last album, “LP4,” might best reflect how far they’ve moved beyond the confines of most pop music and college radio. It’s more layered, there isn’t as much repetition as in a lot of their earlier work. There are even what you might call classical chords at times.
The heavy opening beats of “Bob Gandhi” from “LP4” got people dancing and Stroud’s guitar wound a melody that was offset by darker patches of strings. In more than one song from the album, videos of a violinist and viola player in powdered wigs accompanied the samples. One could mistake the intent as affected if Ratatat didn’t know how to ham it up so well — kneeling dramatically into single keyboard notes, playing guitar sprawled on the floor and facing their instruments toward each other in classic rock duels. Their fun was infectious, and even the white parrots on the video screen seemed to bob their heads in time to it all occasionally.
Mast lightly interspersed harpsichord tones through “Brulee” from 2008’s “LP3.” Stroud cooed warbly sound effects from his guitar. And on the video screen behind, what looked like Steve Reeves from the 1950s “Hercules” movies strained to lift something heavy.
“Seventeen Years” from the band’s self-titled debut album began a two-song encore. Stroud weaved around the song’s funky beat, stopped to strum along with it in time, and finished with droning, reflective tones as the beat dropped. The tune is prefaced with a sample from an MC who says he’s been rapping for 17 and doesn’t write his stuff any more, “I just kick it from my head.” While skillfully composed, it’s no stretch to say Ratatat’s songs shares that same bravado and freedom.
Denver-based writer Sam DeLeo is a published poet, has seen two of his plays produced and is currently finishing his second novel.