Comments: Despite what I may have drunkenly told rave chicks at parties in college, I don't know a whole lot about electronic music. I like the idea of using modern technology to create new soundscapes, but for me most electronica falls into one of two categories:
A) Amped up dance music for drugged out Euro-folks and sexy ladies or
B) Atmospheric mood music for decompression naps or heist-planning.
Are these two categories just broad generalizations for an entire genre that might hold the key to the future of music? Sure. Does this breakdown put music into terms of functionality over expression? Possibly. The bottom line is that I've always been more of a guitar man, and as such electronica has never truly held sway over me.
Given my love for guitars, it makes sense that I'd have a soft spot for Ratatat, the electronica duo who specialize in Sega Genesis-sounding music that is often riddled with tweaked axe solos. On their third album, the sensibly named LP3, Ratatat offer up a warm serving of electronica which utilizes both traditional guitar and piano. This resuls in an album that straddles the line between dance and mood without ever tipping too far into either category.
LP3 isn't a huge departure from Ratatat's established sound of video game electronica. They continue their streak of making mid-level music that would sound good backing rappers, as if each of their albums is a cry to indie rhyme-sayers everywhere. Their music, never quite relaxed or never over the top, is not fit for naps or coke parties, but finds a solid middle ground as the kind of thing you can throw on and absently enjoy at parties between close friends.
Sometime the duo are able to construct some above-average melodies and layers, like on "Shempi," LP3's most dance-ready track. "Mirando" recalls flashes of Fatboy Slim, and the atmospheric "Flynn" is as close to trance as the dudes get on the record. The album's standout track is the almost twee-sounding "Black Heroes," which calls to mind chirping birds and sunrises, but not in a cheesy, “happily ever after” way. It's a mature, well structured song that's too laid back for the club, too textured for an afternoon snooze, and perfect for a good listen.
"Black Heroes" proves that Ratatat can occasionally overcome the broad categories of electronica and rise to be something better. Doing such consistently, however, still seems to be beyond the group’s grasp. A good electronica album, LP3 won't break your heart or rock your party, but it'll sound good as background music among buddies having drinks.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Key Tracks: Black Heroes, Shempi, Mirando
Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal