In The Studio With: Beats Antique’s Electronic Fusion

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By: Justin Hampton

It’s New Year’s Eve, just a few minutes before midnight, and Beats Antique is onstage at the Sea Of Dreams party in San Francisco, showing the home crowd just how far they’ve come.

As longtime members of the Bay Area’s Burning Man culture, Beats Antique is hardly out of step with the garishly clad, BM-themed crowd—in style or music. Nonetheless, it’s a big moment for the world/electronica outfit.

The Oakland, Calif.-based crew—David Satori, “Sidecar” Tommy Cappel and tribal belly dancer Zoe Jakes—comes into 2011 on an upswing. They’re brandishing the album Blind Threshold (Antique Records), an online hit single, “There Ya Go” (featuring Blues Traveler’s John Popper on harmonica), which premiered at No. 2 on iTunes’s Electronic Chart, and a residency at Bond, a lounge in Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan. And while Jakes’ high exposure in the tribal belly dance scene can attract eyeballs, the group’s skillful synthesis of modern tech with live jazz-blues improvisation-based grooves seals the deal.

Says Satori: “One person mentioned it on our iTunes review, ‘Anyone can get a laptop and sample banks.’ Sure, we have [samples], but generally we shy away from those things, because we’ve learned that the actual recordings that we make are more unique and special.”
Beats Antique takes specific pride in mixing up acoustic bass alongside synthetic sub-bass. “We want the attack of an acoustic instrument, but the fullness of the sub to really push the sound systems,” says Cappel. With each member using Ableton Live as a sequencer, Beats will often use a Spectrasonics Trilian sub-bass and mix it with a baritone sax for a sawtooth bass. “The bari produces a higher frequency buzz and growl similar to a saw wave,” Cappel explains, “but there is a human dynamic involved.”

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