Photos by Tom Spray
If Ideal Bar is feeling a little too chill and empty for a gig on a Saturday evening, Ratking make it their business to get the room working for them. The New York hip hop-trio—MCs Wiki and Hak, and producer Sporting Life (which, until proven wrong, I insist is a Gershwin reference)—are touring Europe, promoting their debut album, So It Goes. On record they sound punchy and fresh, full of strange samples and clever wordplay, and feature guest-spots from the likes of King Krule.
This being an often tricky genre to pull off live, and with contemporaneous gigs going on in both Vega’s larger venues, it’s impressive to see Wiki and Hak scrap together a good crowd out of the initially scattered audience. Right from the beginning you can observe their dynamics, the way Hak will gentle coerce people at the back to stand up, while Wiki positively vibrates at the other side of the stage, tensed for the hook to hit. Ratking work by feeding off each other’s differences: Wiki’s exuberance and aggression, Hak’s laid-back reserve, Sporting Life’s obvious intensity and focus. The scruffiness of the sound ends up making them more endearing, three punky kids elated to be playing around the world.
Tracks like “Snow Beach” are great to pick apart, layers upon layers of tropicalia, shoegaze wash and cheap drum samples. It almost sounds like an Animal Collective remix, until a saxophone appears from nowhere. And the lyrics are grounded, explorations of New York, utterly devoid of obnoxious posturing. The sound is that of a thoroughly internet-immersed generation (the names Wiki and Hak should make that clear enough), for whom genres are nothing more than tags on last.fm, rather than the rigid, tribal boundaries they once were.
It’s a short set, the length you might expect from a hardcore act, but Ratking release us back into the streets of Copenhagen vibrating at a slightly higher pitch, somehow a little less cynical.