For those who fretted that electronic doodads would suck the soul out of music and render moot the concept of ensemble interplay, your apocalypse is upon us. Two very different DIY duos will play First Avenue on successive nights this weekend, with the calluses on their twiddle fingers and pedal-pushing toes standing in for the multitudes implied by their swollen sound.
On Friday, Ghostland Observatory from Austin, Texas, will take their throbbing, shrieking, dance floor jams into the club, no doubt pumped by the venue’s connection to Prince. Ghostland has previously made the Purple One’s “Darling Nikki” a staple of their live shows. (Here is an example, from a show in Seattle.)
The division of labor in Ghostland’s music is pretty straightforward: Pigtailed Aaron Behrens provides the hyper vocals — the customary reference is to Queen’s Freddie Mercury, but I think he is most reminiscent of Luke Jenner from The Rapture — and Thomas Turner is the miniature orchestra, fashioning a post-punk melange that is frequently compared to Daft Punk.
For a mere duo, Ghostland Observatory can work up quite a frenzy, especially when abetted by an extravagant light show and a couple of extra players onstage. It makes sense that they have played at the Winter X Games, where adrenaline is an addiction.
On Saturday, the duo Ratatat opts for pop prancing and symphonic strings more often than disco-fied pulsations, although their collaborations with rappers Kid Cudi and Ke have dramatically upped their profile and is one — but not the major — reason why their gig is sold out.
Hailing from Brooklyn, the hotbed of all cool bands nowadays, Ratatat is guitarist Mike Stroud, who has played with Ben Kweller and Dashboard Confessional, and, as programmer and jack of all instruments, Evan Mast. Instead of a light show, the main visual attraction at a Ratatat show is the background cinema, which is arty but not so pretentiously discrete that you can’t connect emotionally. (You get a sense of it from this clip from the duo’s performance of “Lex” a couple years back.)
Where Ghostland Observatory is over-the-top, Ratatat can be too nonchalant and self-effacing by half. Their last two records — a slightly more expansive departure from their first two — were released two years apart in 2008 and 2010 but stem from the same sessions and aptly provided with the nondescript titles “LP3” and “LP4” (on the correspondingly gray-sounding XL label). And yet there are moments when the cello and violin are invoked, where you can sense some flesh-and-blood within the mix.
Here is Ratatat’s Myspace page.
And here they are with light show and movie screen delightfully wrapped up in one on a song that has much less rhythmic variety than the visuals.
Ghostland Observatory at First Avenue, Friday, Sept. 10, at 8:30 p.m.; tickets $20.
Ratatat at First Avenue, Saturday, Sept. 11, at 6 p.m.; tickets $23. Sold Out.