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MIDI Me 

Eats Tapes gets the party started

Wednesday, Mar 14 2007
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Eats Tapes is an apt name for an act that devours recognizable sounds and spits them back out as fractured analog dance tunes. The San Francisco duo, composed of Marijke Jorritsma and Gregory Zifcak, makes a wicked electro-ruckus that's become a mainstay of live shows in local punk, electronic, and noise scenes. At a recent Hemlock gig, the pair stirred up an egalitarian dance floor, including a pony-tailed tech dude doing the python, crusty punks pushing each other around, and, no kidding, someone waving glow sticks.

"I think we have diverse tastes," says Jorritsma from Eats Tapes HQ in the Mission. "You just want to play shows with people you like and the atmosphere you like, and because of our diverse tastes we tend to play diverse shows."

Eats Tapes makes an incorrigible kind of dance music out of decayed synths, crotchety old drum machines, oddball vocal samples, and yes, an old Nintendo. Contradictory to popular belief, Tapes doesn't build much of its equipment, nor is the couple hung up on analog. "It's mostly little boxes," Zifcak says of Tapes' ample electro stockpile, an impressive amount of which travels to live shows, where Jorritsma hops between machines, flailing her arms and getting caught up in her deadly dance beats. The cacophony is made possible through the magic of MIDI, an outdated but widely used means of getting electronic devices to cooperate with each other. We'll get to Eats Tapes' fanatical belief in MIDI in a sec, though.

The couple met in Portland, where Zifcak was noodling around with jungle and techno music. Jorritsma admired his sounds and persuaded him to form a dance act, Boom De La Boom. "[That band] didn't really exist," Zifcak says of the short-lived project, laughing. "It was more of a state of mind." The name was too '80s-sounding, so they rechristened themselves Eats Tapes shortly before moving down to San Francisco in 2000. Eventually they signed with Oakland's Tigerbeat6, who just released Os Mutantes, ET's second album of dance floor-ready annoyatron bangers.

Along with clomping 4/4 beats and layers upon layers of squelchy, damaged synths, Mutantes offers evocative song titles like "I've Become Cretin" and "Wolf Blitzer" ("It's kind of an onomatopoeia," says Jorritsma of the latter. "If you didn't know the dude, you'd imagine a wolverine was about to come tearing out of the speaker." Zifcak adds, "Yeah, we come up with embarrassing working titles and have to change them right before we release them.") The album title is both a nod to the reckless Brazilian psych-patriarchs Os Mutantes, and a self-descriptor for the duo and their monster-mash jams.

If you're looking for something else obnoxious to blast in your office or your next bedroom dance party, check the podcast on Eatstapes.com — the one available now is a 20-minute mix, much more dependent on vocals than Mutantes, throwing old soul and dancehall guys, M.I.A., the Tetris theme, and Gloria Estefan in a rusty Cuisinart with geriatric drum machine lines and noisy synth confusion. It's an appealing bit of sonic anarchy.

Eats Tapes' next project involves starting the MIDI-apocalypse. "We want to make a zine called "MIDI for Geniuses,'" says Jorritsma, referring to the ubiquitous electronic protocol that makes her music possible. "It'll explain how to use a MIDI on a basic level, but it'll also be a comic. I think it's going to start a revolution," she says, laughing. "It'll be remembered as the seminal text that started the MIDI revolution. And it'll kick-start a full-on rave-core scene!" Consider yourself warned.

About The Author

Frances Reade

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