It’s Monday again, which means we’ve got another week full of new songs to explore. We’ve covered a lot of genres these past few weeks, but this week, we’ll be switching things up a bit. The umbrella genre for this week is instrumental music. We won’t be breaking down any lyrics. Instead, we’ll just look at the music.
Instrumental music can come in many forms and adopt any genre. Because of this, we’ll be narrowing down on a few sub-genres to keep things consistent. So for the sake of continuity, we’ll be focusing on instrumental electronic/post-rock bands and artists.
And for our first day, we’ve got a favorite from the electronica-guitar duo Ratatat.
“Abrasive” is the second single from Ratatat’s fifth studio album, “Magnifique”, which released in 2015 shortly after their tour and appearance at Coachella. The album reached the top ten on the US Independent Albums, and No. 1 on the US Top Dance/Electronic Albums of 2015.
There’s good reason for it too. Over ten years after their debut album, multi-instrumentalist/programmer Evan Mast and guitarist Mike Stroud have continued to experiment with their own sound. Detractors may complain that their songs are too formulaic, or predictable. And they might have a point that looped beats over guitar riffs with layered synths can only do so much. But with each of their albums, Ratatat proves that they can make their sound fresh, again and again.
After four albums, Ratatat still finds a way to achieve a freshness of sound with “Abrasive”. Its long, melodic phrase first comes in through a filter behind a canned drum loop emphasizing the second and fourth beats. It doesn’t take long for the melody to pick up steam. Synth harmonies shine through in a call and response, and propel the melody forward.
One of the keys to this song’s success is the amount of attention paid to the drums. Mast and Stroud are masters at knowing when to build up and release energy through percussion. Over halfway through the song, the drums cut out completely, building up tension until the release of “Abrasive”‘s climactic ending.
The crisp and intense combination of the bright guitar line, groovy bass, and supporting synths, transforms what could be one repeating melody into a colorful array of sounds and textures.
“Abrasive” is Ratatat at the top of their game. An upbeat, dancy number with splashes of colorful flavors distributed throughout. It’s a long way from their familiar method of mixing programmed beats and guitars, but you can still hear those roots shining through. They’ve only been perfected, and honed to carefully craft another driving composition.
While Ratatat’s “Abrasive” is only one example of the kind of instrumental music we’ll be looking at this week, it stands out with its innovation and care to melody, harmony, rhythm, and tempo.
That about wraps up our discussion for today. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at another instrumental group that isn’t afraid to experiment with the elements of music.