Monday, February 9, 2009

I Shall Be Released: Beirut

Beirut - March of the Zapotec/Holland
February 17, 2009
Pompeii/Ba Da Bing

Zach Condon must suffer from schizophrenia, but if so, he’s the only one suffering. His new EP March of the Zapotec/Holland gathers together promising material, from both his full band and his solo electronic effort, Realpeople.

Last year, an overwhelmed Condon cancelled a tour and took some time off in Mexico. The rest was certainly worthwhile, as the new tunes sound fresh and fully realized. The first six songs are the usual culturally diverse Beirut pieces we have come to expect, but the last five are new songs under Condon’s old moniker, Realpeople, for his experimental, synth work.

For the rest of contributing writer Deanna McLafferty's review, continue after the jump.

Besides Condon’s mix of musical styles, he also flips back and forth from joyous celebratory songs to dreary laborious ones. Some of them sound carnivalesque, epitomized in the bombastic intro “El Zocalo,” while others sound more like a funeral march, such as the slow, emotional “On a Bayonet.” Other highlights include the saxophone solo in the middle of “La Llorona” and the brass instruments that build into a fury at the end of “The Shrew.”

There are a few missteps, however, whenever the songs become too self-involved and arduous. “My Wife” is an interlude that exceeds its welcome, and the slightly monotonous “The Akara” doesn’t go anywhere.

Surprisingly, the songs included on Holland are often more light-hearted and interesting. “My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille” is one of the most enjoyable songs on the album along with “No Dice,” which is actually danceable. “Venice” can only be described as some kind of underwater journey. On the other hand, “The Concubine,” feels slightly out of place on this side of the EP.

With a Beirut album, not much of the focus is ever on the words. In fact, lyrics in a Beirut song are completely unnecessary. If Zach Condon’s voice wasn’t one of his best instruments, I’d prefer his songs without them. They’re kind of like the cherry on top of a very layered cake. The music says enough.

Condon’s talent lies in his ability to find the similarities in opposites. Each song has multiple intricate parts and this EP starts with one type of song and ends with another, but either way you can tell it’s one of his. His voice is distinct, no matter what the medium, and this EP proves that.

- Deanna McLafferty

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