Ratatat @ Turner Hall Ballroom
Sept. 22, 2008
A pair of guitarists and sometime percussionists who combine heavy sampling and live instruments to create a hybrid form that is solely instrumental, Ratatat's Evan Mast and Mike Stroud make music that is infectiously danceable, and most engaging when played loud, live and in public.
Ratatat's Monday night performance at Turner Hall made even the most unlikely, awkward dancers gesticulate wildly and hop about with one fist pumping the air.
One of the more enthusiastically received tracks was "Mirando," from their latest album, LP3. Like most of Ratatat's oeuvre, "Mirando" is looped and heavily sampled, a dub tapestry laced with Stroud's twangy guitar licks and pounding, arid percussion. Sequences from Predator were projected behind the band, edited in reverse to render explosions into implosions.
On "Flynn," also from LP3, Mast and Stroud were silhouetted in front of footage from the 1986 music video for Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al," cleverly mirroring the performance of Simon and Chevy Chase.
Stroud and Mast make liberal use of single-channel video projection in their performances, and rarely resort to pseudo-psychedelic screensaver mandalas to occupy the space behind them. Due in part to a well-composed assemblage of footage found and filched from music videos and action movies, they provide tacit, narrative riffs in the absence of spoken language. Conceptually, they may not stand up to scrutiny outside a first-year film class as anything more than free associations of bankrupt popular imagery or expressions of postmodern nonsense, but the videos' rapid jump-cuts are nonetheless visually compelling.
Even after a solid hour, the sweaty, uninhibited horde danced on unabated, and called out for more. Responding to the kind of anticipatory twittering and chanting generally reserved for boy bands or Tom Jones, Stroud and Mast returned to the stage for an encore, obliging with "Wildcat" from 2006's Classics. And for a band that plays piper to discerning dancers who would sooner be caught dead than grinding to Justin Timberlake, their appeal, like their beats, keeps spreading.