Ratking @ Manchester Deaf Institute, 26 August

Live Review by Edward Bottomley | 03 Sep 2015

As the jazzy and soporific opening strains of Snow Beach announce Ratking’s arrival, it’s clear that in a live context, the NYC trio's unique sonic palette is transformed. Their sublime marriage of visceral chaos with beautifully textured, psychedelic loops and powerful, crisp drum machine patterns takes on the abrasive quality of a warehouse techno night brought into more intimate surroundings.

Sporting Life's approach to instrumentals, so evocative of contemporary urban life, is perfectly matched by the two MCs. Wiki is a standout performer; stomping around the stage as his hyper-energetic, breakneck flow, as on Makeitwork, contains enough melodic inflections and rhythmic hooks to command attention. In contrast, Hak’s rapping, as well as singing, is woozy and mellifluous, the balm to Wiki’s fire.

For all the subtle and moody nuance of Ratking’s music, the cathartic audience response might come as some surprise. Throughout the majority of their set, the packed out Deaf Institute is taken up by a swirling mosh pit of thrashing limbs, with Flurry (a contender for rap’s greatest ode to the practical winter coat – “I need a 700 Fill cause it’s cold out here”) and Canal cause for a particular outpouring of aggression. The closing lines of the latter encapsulate the grievances of youth with a call to arms – “Think the city has let up? Better check up / Kids that is fed up / Instead of bitching and moaning they get bucked and get up.” Having exorcised something from its system, this rowdy crowd’s frustrations seem sufficiently vented, at least for the time being.