LP3 (XL Recordings)

True to guitarist Evan Mast's side career as a graphic designer, Ratatat's instrumental pop owes as much to the Photoshop ethic as it does to ProTools. At times, this Brooklyn duo shoots its wad in the songs' layouts, as if simply choosing which genres to mix and match is a musical fait accompli. But when Ratatat twists its ideas a little further, the group delivers astute packages of cut 'n' pasted metal guitar heroics and electro beats, combining two of the '80s' most recognizable modes.

On LP3, Mast and DJ Mike Stroud bring the melancholy that lurked behind their first two albums to the foreground, thoroughly blending their expanding file of aural clip art. This isn't to say LP3 is a big departure; riffs and beats remain the backbone to the songs. But the sonic anatomy has evolved into a more durable species, one that won't grate after several spins. Even on "Falcon Jab," which exemplifies the old Ratatat formula with its backwards lead guitar stretched over a jittery beat, there's a new structural integrity to the arrangements, propped up by an impressive array of keyboards. Sonically, these harpsichords, Hammonds, and tickled ivories evoke orchestral pop of the late 1960s, while the throbbing analogue synths and seemingly freeform structures make claims on Wendy Carlos and Klaus Schulze's frontier of 1970s synthscapes. "Black Heroes," the album's closer and centerpiece, deftly mixes both of these periods' details into a whimsically idyllic theme. Here, at long last, Ratatat's instrumental tack evokes an imaginary place rather than a judiciously raided decade — a major step forward.

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