Beats Antique: Rifflandia Magazine 2013

Beats Antique

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Originally posted in Rifflandia Magazine 2013. Rifflandia is an annual world class music festival in Victoria, B.C., Canada and I was fortunate to write a couple articles for them. Here is my write-up on Oakland, California‘s Beats Antique.

Beats Antique may have missed their calling. Whether that was as the house band of Jabba’s palace in Star Wars, a steampunk wedding band, or as the soundtrack for a Japanese Super Nintendo role playing game, it’s impossible to say. Either way, Beats Antique exists simultaneously in the ancient past, the hedonistic present, and the electronic driven future.

The Oakland, California, based trio came together in 2007 when belly dancer Zoe Jakes approached her manager Miles Copeland (brother of The Police drummer Stewart) about making an album. Jakes ‘ boyfriend David Satori was reintroduced to an old acquaintance in Tommy “Sidecar” Cappel in order to create music for the album. What started out as little more than a backing album for Jakes’ masterful dancing evolved into a tour de force of fantasy genre bending.

Beats Antique would be equally at home onstage at Rifflandia as they would onstage in a post-apocalyptic world of swords and sorcery. They just have the misfortune of being born ahead of their time, possibly out of their universe. The group is well versed with large scale outdoor music festivals. They have captivated audiences worldwide at some of the grandest stages of them all having played Bonnaroo, Coachella, and even the legendary Lollapalooza.

Genetically splicing the styles of world music, afro-beat, jazz, and gypsy, with the likes of dub step, glitch, hip hop, and electro, Beats Antique is every bit Bollywood as it is BBC Radio One. The group’s live performance meshes modern technology with elements of string music and brass band. A Beats Antique show can take you from smoking Sheesha in Tangiers with William S. Burroughs and Alan Ginsberg  to making the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs faster than you can engage your hyperdrive.

Beats Antique’s frontwoman does all of her communicating with her hips making their live show so crucial to truly experience the band and their message. Their instrumental music is bolstered by Jakes’ gorgeous and alluring gyrations, creating music that is not only meant to be heard, it becomes a spectacle to be seen. If you haven’t seen Beats Antique live then you are missing perhaps the most important aspect of the band’s talent.

Cappel, Satori, and Jakes are all students of the world. Cappel and Satori are both educated musicians having attended the California Institute of the Arts and the Berkeley School of Music respectively. Jakes’ world renowned  fusion of belly dancing with elements of jazz and hip hop helped to inspire the overall Middle Eastern feel to the band’s tempo. All three members have travelled the world extensively and their experience adds even more depth to the band’s dynamic sound.

Cappel and Satori spent their early years travelling the world and adopting aspects of different culture’s sounds to their own. They ventured to many diverse places such as West Africa, Bali, and Serbia. The sounds of Serbia and the Balkans flow through Beats Antique’s music as much as it flows through the hips and abdomen of Zoe Jakes.

Beats Antique has kept themselves very busy over the last six years since their foundation. They’ve released some manner of recording every year be it full length album or E.P. Their most recent release is 2012’s Contraption Vol. 2 on Antique Records.

The songs on Contraption Vol. 2 continue Beats Antique’s tradition of old world instruments getting in bed together with synthesizers and Ableton. The trouble with such genre bending could be that the music would wind up awkwardly like two very different people deciding to make love after having a few too many drinks. Beats Antique’s sound dodges this and moves together beautifully, picking up speed and slowing down as they get to know one another.

Beats Antique is the culmination of so many themes in culture. They play to our sense of nostalgia, our wanderlust, and our fear of what tomorrow could bring. They do it in such a way and with such a fervour that one can’t help but dance along to the music and put aside their longing for the past and their uncertainty of the future.

Like an old broken grandfather clock drifting through outer space, Beats Antique stops time when they perform as they play with our expectations and bend time and space to fuse genres together in ways that we couldn’t ever imagine. Picture the Jules Verne Time Train from Back to the Future Part III, throw in some gypsy belly dancers and you would have the right vehicle for Beats Antique to arrive at Rifflandia.

Beats Antique

Rifflandia Festival

Bosnian Rainbows: Rifflandia Magazine 2013

Bosian Rainbows

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Originally published in Rifflandia Magazine 2013. Rifflandia is an annual world class music festival in Victoria, B.C., Canada and I was fortunate to write a couple articles for them.  Here is my write-up for El Paso, TexasBosnian Rainbows.

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez eats guitar for breakfast in much the way that one might indulge a Benny during a hangover. He has a slush fund of solo albums along with innumerable collaborations. After 20 years of captaining various indie darlings and solo projects, Rodriguez-Lopez is ready to be a part of a band.

His first success was with At the Drive-In, a group he views as less of a band and more as a collective of musicians. The experience lead him to desire creative control. Next came The Mars Volta where he became something of a generalissimo, dictating every aspect of the band. The experience left him wanting to be part of a band again.

Now the afro clad Rodriguez-Lopez doesn’t want to be the main attraction, he wants to be the guitarist in the band. Bosnian Rainbows gives Rodriguez-Lopez the chance to reinvent himself and his sound once again, this time as a cog in the machine.

After 2012’s reunion of seminal post-hardcore band At the Drive-In, Rodriguez-Lopez put his current band – progressive rock darlings The Mars Volta – back in the toy chest. His next move was to focus on The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group, a project which has existed off and on again for years. He began to collaborate with singer Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes. Deantoni Park joined on drums along with Mars Volta member Nicci Kasper on synth, and virtually every member taking a crack at keys. The group took solace in collaboration as a band and became more than another Rodriguez-Lopez solo adventure. They evolved into Bosnian Rainbows.

They released their self-titled debut studio album on June 25, 2013 via Sargent House/Rodriguez-Lopez Productions and Clouds Hill in Europe. Their sound eschews the aggressive post-hardcore of At the Drive-In and the psychedelic prog aspects of The Mars Volta in favour of alternative rock. Fans of the Volta shouldn’t fear though as the sound of Rainbows retains many of the art house rock stylings.

The music sounds like a rainbow in Bosnia would look. A prism of light breaking through overcast skies of a war torn land. The impending sense of doom pulses through their songs as they build to peak like a bomb going off. There’s a sultry sweetness though as Teri Gender Bender’s androgynous vocals shed light across the dire soundscape.

Rodriguez-Lopez doesn’t take a back seat now that he’s just a member of a band. His guitar is as innovative as it is exploratory while maintaining elements of the alt rock sound. These are punk rock kids grown up playing art house punk. Rodriguez-Lopez has his name on as many as 30 solo albums, a decade in At the Drive-In, and yet another decade in The Mars Volta, and collaborations with artists ranging from Erykah Badu to Red Hot Chili Peppers. Bosnian Rainbows stands out as some of Rodriguez-Lopez’s best work. Whether or not they span another decade, Rodriguez-Lopez is happy that he’s in a band again.

Bosnian Rainbows

Rifflandia Festival