At the very young age of 23, Zach Condon’s Beirut is an impressive band. What first started as a safe-haven for Condon to record music under, Beirut has released two excellent albums with 2006’s Gulag Orkestar and 2007’s The Flying Club Cup. But what one doesn’t realize is just what an impressive musician Condon is. His ear for melody is something else and his multi-instrumentalist skills are dazzling for someone of that age. It’s fitting that with the release of a new double-EP, March of the Zapotec and Realpeople Holland, these skills are showcased in impeccable style.
These are two distinctively different sounding EPs but they are successfully united by Condon’s never-failing trademarks: wonderful vocal lines, linear melodic patterns and that soothing voice. The second half is an electronically-charged release that was recorded under one of Condon’s pre-Beirut monikers, Realpeople. But these aren’t outlandish, synthesized productions. Rather, they feature Condon with a few keyboards and with a much more polished production than his live recordings.
Holland’s centerpiece is the accordion-dancing, “The Concubine.” With a modest mix of keyboard flurries, Condon joins in with his trumpet to create a balanced set of flourishing sounds. And it’s these methodical, subtle changes that makes this an enjoyable experience. With “No Dice,” everything reaches a proportioned stability of twinkling synths and dancefloor-ready melodies. The only difference is that instead of being carried out by horns or strings, they are delivered through finely tuned electronics.
But the main attraction is the new material Condon recorded in Oaxaca, Mexico with The Jimenez Band, March of the Zapotec. These six songs (five, if you exclude the beginning instrumental warm-up, “El Zocalo”) are brilliantly arranged and composed. Condon goes above and beyond to provide many of the music’s instruments—everything from percussion to horns—and still has the presence to compose everything in a rousing manner.
Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear shows up to produce a few songs including the deep and gorgeously coated, “On a Bayonet.” It’s an instrumental that burns with robust saxes, simmering tubas and trombones and shines with an extra splash of trumpet gleam. It all sounds entirely magical while still maintaining an equally dashing demeanor. Then there is the thumping and magnificently composed, “La Llorona.” Named after a famous scary Mexican fable, the music is supported with lavish trumpets and clarinets. They flutter in and out with a paired melody and the tubas lay down a resounding pulse, while Condon sings in full gusto. The highlight is after the first chorus and verse where a clarinet solo jumps in and steals the show with a swelling figure.
Side by side, they are two dissimilar EPs because of their overall sounds but played as one, unifying theme, it all makes sense. The Holland EP is unquestionably the accompanying piece (as it can even be noted by the small print on the packaging) and March of the Zapotec is a bountiful beauty but both are absolutely terrific. These are resonating moments for Condon because everything he is touching is turning into gold. In addition to the full-lengths, the Lon Gisland EP was a great release and the song he contributed to the Dark Was the Night compilation was awesome as well and now, with this new release, Condon has proven his worth, yet again.