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Ratatat @ Les Saints 9/7

Posted by John / September 11, 2006

Photos by Geneviève Cartier.

The oldest weapon in the battle for cultural superiority: I've known about some band much longer than you have. I'll trot that one out for Ratatat, but then I'll waste it by adding that, besides their music, I've never known anything about them at all. This is clearly one of the flaws of the digital era; without a CD insert or vinyl sleeve, your understanding of a band is limited to the sounds they make. Unless you read something, but that requires effort. Anyway, I think I accidentally read a paragraph in the week before the show that told me that there are two members, and that they come from New York. I think. But so, really, I was expecting laptops and standing around, and I was very surprised to find none, and ultimately more than just a little delighted by what happened instead.

ratatat2.jpgWhat happened was this: there were three of them, first of all (which means the paragraph I read was wrong, or else the third guy is a touring accessory), and they were all scraggly rock guys, with the keyboardist (the accessory, I'm pretty sure) sporting a bad Strokes-style afro. The other two held guitar and bass, and they proceeded to rock. With the first bass note plucked, my concept of the band changed completely, and not just because it was so heavy that I could feel it reverberating in my ribcage. OK, maybe just because of that.

Clarification: Ratatat are an instrumental band, unless you count the wildcat yowl in Wildcat as vocals, and the drum tracks on their songs were being created by something, somehow, which suggests laptops, or else maybe some kind of laptop- ported-into-Strokes-Afro'd-keyboardist's-keyboard setup. Visually, though, there were no laptops.

The main observation I made about Ratatat, which had never been apparent to me in the past, is that this band was clearly created in an attempt to explore ways that someone could noodle on a guitar for entire songs without the result being annoying or hilarious. Ratatat's songs are 3- and 4-minute noodlefests, essentially, but never stray into Yngwie Malmsteen-style bathos. They've found some kind of way around that. Maybe it's just the sheer force of their assault. Every time guitar guy stomped a certain pedal (which was probably just some kind of distortion pedal but which I began to refer to in my head as the kill-everyone-now pedal) and ripped out several bars of sonic destruction, it seemed impossible that three people could be producing something so profound and so heavy.

(The letdown came on a few occasions when that illusion was exposed; once or twice, it was quite apparent that the doubled and quintupled guitar lines, which more or less define Ratatat's sound, weren't always being produced through some magical pedal, but were in fact pre-recorded and maybe coming from Strokes-Afro'd-keyboardist's setup.)



mike / September 11, 2006 at 01:05 pm
that pic is incredible
J Mac / September 11, 2006 at 01:51 pm
Word. Props to GC. There's other good ones on her FlickR page, I note.
rrrobyn / September 11, 2006 at 01:59 pm
never underestimate the potential power of keyboard, for realz! it's possible that the guitarist had a pedal that lets you loop riffs/sounds too. p.s. i know nothing about this band except for a few songs and i don't know if i believe your use of the word "heavy" but i'm glad, and surprised, to know they have a kill-everyone-now pedal. mmm, pedals.
Hans / September 11, 2006 at 02:41 pm
I saw the Ratatat show in Toronto on Friday and that guy is pure madness. He had some seriously mad skills and blew the place apart with his guitar shredding solos... which was about 90% of the show.
J Mac / September 11, 2006 at 02:48 pm
Robyn, I would never have used "heavy" before seeing the show, but I stand by it now. Guitarist for sure had some looping stuff going on as well -- my guitar nerd show accomplice (hi Jer!) was trying to figure out if there was some kind of backwards looping pedal that could see into the future. The letdown I refer to was at the beginning of a couple of songs, when there was guitar playing, but guitarist was, like, sipping beer or something. And this letdown was minor, I assure you.
Nika / September 11, 2006 at 03:32 pm
I think I blew a synapse at that show. And yes, to my surprse, it WAS heavy... as all hell.

Thought that ran through my head throughout the whole show: (looking at the crowd) "who ARE these people?" What kind of crowd does Ratatat draw?
FX / September 11, 2006 at 04:31 pm
So, who WERE these people? I wasn't there so I'm curious. (And yeah, that pic is a killer!)
Jer / September 11, 2006 at 07:22 pm
I wouldn't say heavy. Loud and fuzzy. But not heavy. Guitar was definitely going through a loop pedal and probably some kind of reverse. If anyone knows the exact pedal specs, let me know because it is for sure the sound to heal the world from what ails it.

Crowd seemed to be 20-30ish. Shaggy hairs. T Shirts. Pants or shorts. That narrows it down right?
toine / September 11, 2006 at 09:33 pm
I might be wrong, but when I saw them before Mouse on Mars in 2004 they were only 2, a guitarist and a keyboard guy. So the accessory person is the bassist. ;)

Good show but Les Saints spearkers system drive way too much bass, in front row the sound was terrible.

And yes, Ge's photo totaly rock!
J Mac / September 15, 2006 at 10:58 am
As noted to me by Jer, Genevieve's photos (the top one in particular) are proving pretty popular:
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