For a fellow who's barely aged 23 years, Zach Condon's fallen to the bottom of a pigeonhole an astonishing number of times - with good reason. The Beirut mastermind's impressive recording career has spawned, thus far, two critically heralded albums (Gulag Orkestar and The Flying Club Cup) and two tiding EPs (Lon Gisland and Elephant Gun EP); all teeming with an indie-tinged variety of old world extravagance and well-learned European fare. He's done well, this Condon, and his desire to keep doing well may just produce a lifetime of memorable music if he keeps it up. Still, four years of similar global ramblings must dare a fellow to dream, which no doubt explains Condon's most recent release. Packaged together as a two CD set, the March of the Zapotec and Holland EPs effectively aim to usher Condon's legacy in the making in to two very new directions.
First, Zapotec; the least startling EP of the collection. Journeying to Oaxaca Mexico, Condon enlisted the help of a local 19-piece collective dubbed the Jimenez Band to join him on record. Though seeped in indie exotica yet again, Zapotec offers a new kind of role for the Brooklyn based songwriter. Instead of nestling front and center as he has on previous releases, Condon ducks in and out of the pieces offered here, allowing mariachi hustles ("My Wife"), cinematic waltzes ("La Llorona"), and Mexican jam sessions ("The Shrew")to effectuate their most authentic of possibilities. Perhaps most impressive, Zapotec offers listeners not token pieces from far off places, but rather a more encompassing cultural bath in which to dip on in to.
Once toweled off, Holland presents something else entirely. Packaged under his pre-Beirut moniker Realpeople, the EP's a collection of sparse electronica that may raise a few eyebrows upon first listen. This is not kid Condon the world traveler, but rather the stuff of a stay at home teen experimenting late at night on Fruity Loops. On opener "My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille", skittish lap top beats, complete with programmed handclaps, provide the frame work for Condon's ever luscious vocals...not exactly a banger, but a potential body mover nonetheless. With "The Concubine", Condon adds more familiar elements (accordion, bells, brass) to the digital mix, creating a rhythmic set that pulls on everything Condon keeps at his disposal. And "No Dice" is a club lite, instrumental mix, complete with deep pulsing bass, sputtering blips and beeps, and synthetic melody lines.
It all makes for a rather ambitious release. With such a rabid fan base on call, Condon could probably continue to churn out release after release of much of the same. But like an artist of substance, he instead chooses to daringly mix it up, with tremendous effect. May he never know another pigeonhole again... - David Pitz