Beirut – March Of The Zapotec & Realpeople – Holland


Beirut – March Of The Zapotec EP

Realpeople – Holland EP

(Ba Da Bing Records; released February 17th, 2009)

Wunderkind Zach Condon has been busy. Two full length Beirut records and three EPs prior to the simultaneous release of two new seperate EPs, one under his full-time moniker and another under his electronic side-project Realpeople. One EP is organic and horn-laden, the other is plastic and synth-heavy. Polar opposites that just may work…

Aptly named for its Mexican funeral march feel, March Of The Zapotec was recorded with the help of a nineteen piece band, The Jimenez Band hailing from the state of Oaxaca. Inspired by Condon‘s recent visit there as well as the Oaxacan/Zapotecan tradition of burying their dead with all their valuables, this EP is rife with the imagery and native folklore- the track La Llorona, (Spanish for “weeping woman”) is loosely based on the similar tale told throughout the Hispanic world. Strangely, if not timely, it mirrors the Casey Anthony saga currently in the news; mother kills her whining children in order to go to more fiestas to win the attention of a rich and handsome nobleman who wants nothing to do with raising someone else’s children. After killing her babies, stuffing them in a sack and throwing their bodies in a river, she tells the man she is now free of any obligations. He is horrified and rebukes her advances. She goes to the river and drowns herself. After dying, she is judged by God Almighty to spend the rest of her eternal afterlife looking for the bodies of her children. The woman’s spirit now roams the earth’s rivers looking for her children’s bodies, weeping. I swear I can’t make this shit up- history has that uncanny knack of repeating itself tragically when one is completely ignorant of it.

The opening track, El Zocalo, is the informal name of the main plaza in Mexico City. It sounds like a field recording, maybe something you’d hear as you passed the throngs of horn players gathered there in reveille one afternoon. It’s a short, half-minute burst of celebration, introducing the album warmly to the listener’s ears.

My Wife is an instrumental, and its tone is waltz-like; Condon can’t shake his eastern-European leanings just yet- which makes for an interesting study in an increasingly globalizing world- think of it as Beirut‘s one-world philosophy; I think one thing Condon can say through his music is that we’re all basically the same. If indie hipsters can like the sort of music inspired by the clash of the Industrial Revolution and the Ottoman Empire, so be it.

The Akara is the one song that’s heavy on the ukelele; after a horn intro the entire song revolves around a strummed progression of B-flat minor, F-minor and C-major. Just in case you own a uke and want to play along (or happen to be a music geek) I mention the chord structure because it’s a very signature style of Condon‘s music- heavy on progressions with the exposition of a minor chord (here a flat) towards resolving itself on a major chord.

The EP ends with The Shrew, a rhythmic oompah-burdened hymnal that culminates in a frantic rush towards a relaxed flourish, ending the mini-album all too soon. If there’s anything that Beirut is good at, it’s making the listener want more.

Realpeople‘s Holland EP is an exercise in fun, taking Condon to explore FruityLoops and other beats-and-synth music production software. Not too unlike his Pompeii EP, recorded before Gulag Orkestar was released in 2006- maybe this side-project was in response to touring Europe, spending lots of time in all-night discotheques (where he was treated in a French hospital for “extreme exhaustion”; which everyone knows is music biz code for “totally fucking piss drunk every night, not sleeping, probably eating pills, then travelling, eating poorly, playing gigs and a possible bout with a severe case of penicillin-resistant venereal disease”)…

…which would be the necessary ingredients for any “good” electronic album.

Case in point: the opening track is called My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille. Another song about Venice, and another entitled No Dice– hit the tables in Monte Carlo, did we Mr. Condon? Even if you lost big, you’re still a winner; 22 years old and already you have dual careerist aspirations. By night you’re in a critically acclaimed band that pays heavy homage to Romanian folk music, and later that same night you’re in a nearby club on the turntables and laptop in the chill-out room, banging out slow-churning make-out tunes.

How’d you do that?


March Of The Zapotec

1. El Zocalo

2. La Llorona

3. My Wife

4. The Akara

5. On A Bayonet

6. The Shrew

Realpeople – Holland

1. My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille

2. My Wife, Lost In The Wild

3. Venice

4. The Concubine

5. No Dice