Formerly charged with kicking off Melbourne’s inner north psych-pop scene, Rat Vs Possum have surprised many by opening their second album Let Music & Bodies Unite with a track that features – of all things – auto-tuned vocals.

A short intro sets an ambient mood for the album before Never Die runs straight for the dance floor with funk-meets-tribal percussion, grinding synthesisers and, yes, some very robotic singing.
And it’s no joke, says the band’s sonic helmsman, synth and guitar player Matt Kulesza. On the eve of the album’s launch, he tells us that while some haven’t taken to their use of Kanye West’s favourite piece of software, they have a genuine respect for the tools of chart music.

“We absolutely love the sound of auto-tune vocals on commercial pop music,” Kulesza assures. “And it’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek thing, but at the same time it’s a homage to pop music in general and it’s a quality we think is awesome.”

While the track might shock those expecting more of the chanted group melodies from Rat Vs Possum’s wave-making 2010 debut Daughter Of Sunshine, its pep-and-awe approach works perfectly in the context of Let Music & Bodies Unite. The album continues the group’s lyrical celebration of humanity and community, but rather than sounding like a soundtrack for coastal road trips and forest walks, the band builds something akin to a synthetic city in which to party.

It does get freaky – from the deep keyboard pulses and faint whispers of HDRD to the wide-eyed melange that is New Pills – so the straighter pop of Never Die could be seen as the band’s attempt to ease listeners into their new sounds.

“For me, 2011 has been a year of devouring the history of rave culture and dance music,” Kulesza says. He lists off a number of books about rave culture that have had an influence, including Energy Flash by respected London-based music journalist Simon Reynolds.

“A lot of the other guys are really into early disco stuff, so there’s been a difference in what we’ve been listening to as a whole – less psychedelic indie stuff and more daggy 90s music.”

The album’s first single Fat Monk has found much favour with Triple J and community radio around the country, again stepping up the band’s exposure following a year of playing every festival under (and out of) the sun, including Laneway and the Melbourne Festival.

Kulesza says the band hope to tour overseas in 2012, but they’ll also be having a break. It’s been an exhausting two years, going from warehouse parties to the biggest stages in the country, and Kulesza wants some time for the band to rejuvenate.

That’s all the more reason to get to the launch for Let Music & Bodies Unite tonight. Another is that the band will be most likely playing a mix of songs from their first and second albums.

“We’ve kind of done interpretations of the old songs with the new way we’re playing, playing our own reinterpretations of them,” Kulesza says.

“We’re not precious about keeping things exactly the same.”

Rat Vs Possum launched Let Music & Bodies Unite (out through Sensory Projects) at FBi Social last week.