Ratatat’s latest: diminishing background music

Annie Zaleski

Two and a half stars

Ratatat Magnifique

Brooklyn-based instrumental duo Ratatat has always been adept at weaving different styles, eras and textures into its largely vocal-less electronic music—from squirrelly techno and gnarly classic rock to gothic orchestral flourishes and lilting reggae. Fifth studio album Magnifique, however, is more of a nod to 2004’s simpler, self-titled debut. Corrugated guitar bombast with the warm, fuzzy tone of French disco is the driving force of songs like “Abrasive” and “Cream on Chrome.” “Pricks of Brightness” is almost a metal-riffic triumph, while retro-fabulous standout “Countach” alternates zooming synth-funk flourishes with sound effects of shattering glass. But mostly, Magnifique feels sleepier and less engaging than previous Ratatat efforts. As the album progresses, its tempos turn sluggish, and repeating ideas and rhythms blend together and become more monotonous. “Supreme” has a languid Hawaiian vacation vibe, between the sampled bird noises, swaying tempo and keening tropical guitars, and both “Drift” and the title track sound like ’50s proto-rock relics. Though pristine-sounding in the moment, little about these songs lingers later. Magnifique makes for pleasant background music but lacks staying power.

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