Who would've thought combining hip-hop/ IDM beats with florid prog-rock guitar would woo the hipster elite? But believe it or not, guitarist Mike Stroud (Ben Kweller, Dashboard Confessional) and programmer and keyboardist Evan Mast (aka E*Vax) appear on your Urban Outfitters soundtracks right alongside the Rapture and Hot Chip.
The Brooklyn duo's 2004 debut is an ungainly beast: Precise, stutter-funk beats split the difference between Timbaland and Neptunes, while the guitar flounces with the fuzzed floweriness of Queen's Brian May. It's such a WTF? approach that you have to respect it, even if the songs grate in large doses. With 2006's Classics (the chutzpah!), the hip-hop rhythms are de-emphasized, while the melodies and production are more sumptuous, with the tracks taking on an even loftier classical grandeur (cello and harpsichord appear on a few songs).
Usually, no vocals equals commercial suicide. But Ratatat tours the world, plays sizable venues (including the Guggenheim Museum), and remixes mainstream hip-hop artists (Jay-Z, T.I.). So maybe minds are slightly expanding.
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