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Published: 2009/08/04
by Fady Khalil

Contraption, v. 1 – Beats Antique

Band members is a misnomer here. With as much live performance as production, Beats Antique’s Zoe Jakes, David Satori, and Sidecar Tommy Cappel are composers of sound. A live electronica/world beat outfit hailing from Oakland, their music exists somewhere between EOTO and a sonic portrayal of a Salvador Dali painting. Likewise, their latest self-released EP, Contraption, vol. 1, transcends normal musical reality, creating a surreal spectacle through its almost pathological fusion of auditory elements that would rarely exist within the same musical space.
From the opening beats of Oriental Uno, a Far East exoticism is shattered by the testosterone driven swagger of music fit for a Spanish bull fight. This proclivity to meld dissimilar tonalities, particularly of an Eastern bent, is omnipresent, and proves the album’s single greatest defining factor. Indeed, Louies Lullaby commands attention because of its uncommon hybridization of melody and rhythm. Harkening best to EOTOs Kirk, Cappels club-ready beats provide backdrop for icicled bell tones, which once lightly struck, decay to a stark and hollow silence. Though not easily danceable, the melody is arguably patentable in its sequence of hypnotic notes.
Shes Looking For Something, features fellow beatsmiths, Lynx and Janover. With their penchant for beat boxing and rhyming, the song presents the first incorporation of human voice in the mosaic of sound that is Contraption. A vocal breakdown mid tune functions as a proper solo, providing a cathartic release that would do well live, and resonate loudly with a jamband audience. And though in step with a world beat sub-scene that seems largely in favor of minimizing the role of vocals, the short 100 Eyes, could have also benefited from Lynx and Janovers guerilla-style lyrical tactics, its hip hop rhythm already tailor-made for poetic kata.
But then theres Mission. Its perfect combination of elements quells the persistent feeling of repetitiveness inherent in beats, which by now is beginning to wear thin the novelty of the album. Teased out from an overheard accordion, and reinvented in David Satoris artistically twisted mind, Mission was at first a piece for String Quartet, but now re-imagined for this seven song album. Its playful melody sways between worlds of melancholy soaked strings and rave-ready breakdowns, with a sound akin, if in innovation alone, to the pioneering work of Thievery Corporation circa 1996.
Though a few uninspired moments do cause this album to hiccup periodically, strong elements of originality provide it plenty of reason to keep listening. Incorporation of unusual instruments including clarinet, glockenspiel, horns, accordion, string quartets, viola, kalimba, and more should give Contraption a strong and unique voice amongst contemporaries. No doubt, witnessing Zoe Jakes renowned belly dancing as it accompanies the performance, demands Beats Antique be experienced live preferably. However, this album should both whet your appetite, and suffice to hold you over till then.

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