(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

CD review - Beats Antique, Elektrafone (2011)

World-tronica band evolves their sound, but keeps their quirks

Elektrafone is an evolutionary step for Beats Antique. They haven't abandoned their idiosyncratic mix of live instruments and electronic grooves, but their latest emphasizes glitchy electronica more than their world beat vibe.

Does this shift signal a weakening in Beats Antique's character? The opening track, Cat Skillz, shows off the newer sound and emphatically counters any worries. Their unique vibe is evident from the start. The tag groove is anchored by a baritone sax and synths that set up a stalking rhythm: step, step...pause. This gets ornamented with a shimmering layer of electronic sounds. The beat is fairly straightforward, but the syncopation stays interesting. The central theme is reworked through several voicing change ups. Additional horns fill out the sound.

When Cat Skillz fades down and the wonky strings and off kilter beat of The Porch kick in, the last doubts fade away. The violin melody offers a reminder of the band's classic sound.

My favorite track was Uneven, which calls back to a more familiar world-tronica groove. Wisps of sound coalesce to start the track. The exotic strings create an Indian feel that plays against glitch and scratch parts along with traces of dub step bass. The moody mix of analog old world and modern digital sounds hits that perfect balance that Beats Antique mastered in their earlier releases.

Siren Song was another intriguing interlude. The atmospheric track has a pensive tension, starting from the piano that tolls the opening notes. The glitched elements are offset by the discordance of the 20th Century classical tonality. The mood is thick as the violin line devolves into a chaotic wildness, only to pop back into place. Glitchy creaks and other sounds fit together to create an eerie vibe. It's a wonderful programmatic piece that would be a great backdrop for some of Zoe Jakes' choreography.

Elektrafone's celebration of glitch still supports Beats Antique's special character. Even with fewer Mideastern beats, old fans will appreciate how the band continues to expand the genre of electronic music.

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