Thursday, April 02, 2009

Beirut/ Realpeople

March of the Zapotec/ Holland
Beirut, the moniker that Zach Condon operates under, shifts from the old to new effortlessly, moving from pulsing electronics to south of the border horn music. The only other band that operates with such ease & style is Portland Oregon's Rollerball.

This disc was recorded in two parts. For the first half of the record called March of the Zapotec, Zach went down south to Oxaaca, Mexico. There, he employed 19 members of the Jimenez Band. The first song, "El Zocalo", sounds like a Mexican marching band. It is fleeting like the sound you would hear from a parade as you barreled down an over pass past a fair ground holding a fiesta celebration. "La Llorna" still features the horns but some crooning vocals are added on top. Despite being recorded in Mexico it definitively has an eastern European feel.

On a "Bayonet" opens with a more somber tone before shifting to more Lawrence Welk-ian polka fare, which I like btw. Once again Zach’s vocals are soothing. The rest of the band keeps the polka going underneath his lyrics before ending abruptly. "The Shrew", the last song with the Mexican band, is slow and stately. The tenor sax/ and horns have a tonality that is beautiful. Zach sings disturbing lyrics to cheerful tooting of the horns.

Realpeople is the moniker of Zach's original solo sound project, which features pulsing electronics. "My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille" is more explicit in its title than in the lyrics. I think the ambiguity of the lyrics & the specificity of the title create a nice tension. "My Wife, Lost in the Wild" features a driving beat and multi-layered vocals. While the first half of the record evokes the Tex-Mex music of 100 year ago, the second half has its roots in the electronic dance music of the 1980s. "Venice" is a mellow track that features the horns of the first half of the record with the electronics of the second half. "The Concubine" employs an accordion with what sounds like a toy xylophone or piano, before beats and horns join the music. It feels light and airy, perfect for an early spring day. The last song is my favorite of the disc with the pulse electronics & the thumping bass.

Zach has shown a lot a promise, and he has an innate ability to take on any musical genre in which he is interested. The separations of styles are not obvious on first listen. Only after reading the press sheet after listening to the album 20 plus times did I realize it was meant to be broken in half. I think if he keeps pushing the boundaries in both directions new vs. old he should have an interesting career. I almost wish both halves of this album were expanded to full length projects or both influences were combined on a third album. Zach, you have your assignment for your next project. If you do not like my review check out what some senior citizens from Fishtown in Philly thought of it here. (Ba Da Bing Records) (Dan Cohoon)