28 January 2009

Beirut - March of the Zapotec/Realpeople Holland

Zapotec/Realpeople is a total identity crisis of a record, which deepens the furrows of the conundrum surrouding Zac Condon – is he a genuinely talented, tortured artist, yet to find himself in any corner of the world? Or, should the spell of his truly glorious first album, ‘The Gulag Orkestar’, be lifted, would he be nothing more than a disaffected rich kid, traveling the world in search of indigenous musical dialects to pilfer and plagiarise as his own? On ‘March of the Zapotec’ (named after a Mesoamerican people) a rambunctious, carnivalesque array of trumpets and percussion erupt on ‘El Zocalo’ as if leading a merry band down a sunlit dusty Mexican street, while ‘La Llorona’ deepens to more sophisticated, crepuscular tones, Condon’s languid voice swimming amongst elephantine horns in search of a girl, and ‘The Akara’ wordlessly mourns a nameless monarch in the court of Beirut, before a picaresque ukelele flamencos in. Take away the traditional Mexican band on this EP, and it’s hard to know what the songs would otherwise amount to. ‘My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille’, the first track from ‘Realpeople Holland’, is a whole different kettle of fish – magpie-attracting charms of the glimmeringly electronic, sleepy Eurodance beneath contrast interestingly with Condon’s sympathetic, fathoms-deep élan – it’s not dissimilar to the Postal Service gone Europop. Closer ‘No Dice’ could be the demure cousin of post ‘Hissing Fauna…’ of Montreal, a thumping, engulfing assault of reverberating drums, pretty camp, and were it not for the picture on the sleeve, entirely unrecognizable as Beirut. Desirable as it is to be objective, it’s extraordinarily difficult not to be won over by the self-effacing charm of this picaresque young gentleman.

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