Gritty fusions of funk and dance music in the Apron style.
The album has more in common with the expansive analogue vistas of Julien's Fallen and the bass-forward lurches of Graef's Apron EP than the crate-digging hip-hop of the German artist's 2014 album, Rivers Of The Red Planet. Most tracks here are clouded in tape hiss, lit by cheap-sounding synths and pushed forward by programmed drums that could've been sampled from a Baldwin Fun Machine.
But where Fallen was smooth to the touch, Graef and Conrad's bass-playing makes Ratgrave a knotty, winding affair. High in the mix and thin as a needle, the live bass bores through most of the album's first half, taking circuitous paths and often meeting equally twisted guitar lines along the way. Juicy keyboards high-step through the mix, while humid synth patches occasionally dampen the scene. As a result, Ratgrave often comes across as the sound of a live band rather than the work of two dance producers.
But as it proceeds, the LP begins to challenge its band-in-the-studio conceit. While the tones throughout Ratgrave are warm and warped, dubby echoes whirl forcefully across "Blizzard People"'s stereo field. It's a breezy jam that could've soundtracked a NES surfing game. Later, a tractor beam of bass emerges midway through "El Schnorro," which precedes a drum & bass coda. These unusual touches give the album a sense of unity that goes beyond the pervasive lo-fi production and the prodigious bass playing, and, in keeping with much of the Apron catalog, elevates Ratgrave's wigged-out fun beyond pure nostalgia.