Beats Antique makes sound a visual entity. They fill a room with it until there’s no room for air and all you can do is hope the pores of your skin learn to breathe in pulsing rhythms of movement and electrified musical warfare. There is beauty painted in soundscapes of bodies. Slipping musical vibrations below their surface, they allow it to ripple and move as water shaping the banks of a river.
They performed with 3 belly dancers led by Zoe Jakes, who announced at the start of a sold-out show in Ashland, Oregon on a Wednesday night, that, “It’s been a long time! There was a pandemic! I had a baby! And, we got totally re-inspired! We’re going to blow your fucking mind!” This was all accurate.
It was a new formation with original member, Dave Satori, taking a break from live shows and Miles Jay joining them with a toolbox of unique instruments, some personally designed, that gave seemingly simple strings a facelift and expression previously unbeknownst to threads. The strings spoke of Egypt, long nights in India, ecstatic voices embedded in wind from a different era mutated over time and delicately sprinkled about the room. It sounded as if they emanated from a knob or lever, but in fact, were born from various bows over strings bound to a variety of unusually shaped bodies.
Tommy “Sidecar” Cappel held the primary beats on percussion and drums. Pounding holes through ether like breaking through ice. Then, at times, tiptoed on top of a lake, gently touching it with feather-tipped fingers. Zoe played a bass drum marching band style in various songs throughout the night. Inciting a percussion extravaganza with all five performers on drums playing Whack-A-Mole percussion beats swung against dub sounds in the air with direct precision that painted the air in sticks. This carnival show held more than one mallet and the visible soundscape was also punctured by large feather fans, rolling sheets of sheer fabric, white masks with veils, a brass vase balanced atop Zoe’s head, limbs, so many limbs, moving like arm poi…skillfully, independently, Egyptian arms, popped shoulders, ripple waves of sound seen in every note across a belly. All of these appendages (yes, these ladies added bellies to the category of appendage) danced sound into a visible wave.
Tommy and Miles played a new song, not heard before by a live audience. It may have been the best of the night. The strings swept river dance legs out from beneath bodies across the dance floor while a hard percussion thwump broke through the earth and brought those legs back under gravity. Alternating back and forth, the opposing sounds wove a matrix of art that pulsed through any physical form in the vicinity of a whispered echo of this music—expanding the visual medium to any unsuspecting passerby that would have suddenly found their limbs sweeping mandalas through dust on the street while cracking sidewalks every third step.
The last song of the night possessed the lower limbs of the audience and played them into quick, wonderfully ridiculous puppets painting circles around one another in a pixilated dot painting of colored feet against the floor. Then heavy jellyfish limbs swallowed the air whole. Music covered the air in frequencies only butterflies could see. Light, dancing, puppeteered feet refreshed the room. Then jumping, jumping, more jumping. Prancing. Explosions of bass engulfed the room. Painted the walls, thick, and washed those pores trying to breathe with enough power to awaken to their own life. A magnetic force pulled every speck of sound to center in a tornado of beats, taking prisoners, dangled by their ankles, smiling and transformed. A momentary pause sucked the sound to calm before it blew a hole through the sky. The wave settled. The room returned to being a room. Lights, walls and space. Sound evaporated like water after a storm back to the invisible field where it moved through flesh unobtrusively vibrating a few hairs at a time. Though the walls still talk about the time they could see every sound in the room, and the performers who touched each one. They are rarely believed.
Zoe bookended the night with the microphone in hand announcing, “OK, your minds have officially been blown. Take a little bit of this feeling that you have right now of energy and creativity and put it into the world. Share it. Create something with it we can’t even imagine!” I look forward to meeting the world again after this tour.