March of the Zapotec EP
Realpeople: Holland EP
January 27th 2009
Using his trip to Oaxaca, Mexico as fodder, Zach Condon has brought home March of the Zapotec, the first disc of a double EP released in late January. Mr. Condon inserts roughly 30 seconds of what sounds like a street marching band as an intro to the record. The track is aptly named El Zócalo after El Zócolo Plaza in Oaxaca. The two names are permutations of the same word referring to an open, public square—a space where music, rhythm and public life can unfold. This voyeuristic reference perfectly captures the records inspirational center. Oaxacan traditional brass bands, who possibly share roots with Balkan traditional music as a result of European military expansion into the region in the 18th century, are a perfect appendage to Beirut’s already rustic appeal. The Band Jimenez, a 19 piece band from Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, backs Condon as he synthesizes a genealogical connection between the two worlds of Mexico and Eastern Europe. It is quintessential Beirut, whose somber tone is accentuated with a marvelous old-world beauty fused with indigenousness and romantic antiquity.
The second half of the double EP is released in part under Zach Condon’s pre-Beirut name Realpeople. The five track disc is essentially Mr. Condon and a drum machine. Though his signature baritone vibrato is anchored in an Ernest Hemingway novel, with the Holland EP, he extends his hands forward. Rather than join two points on an atlas he marries two different eras, allowing the double EP, in its entirety, to comment on both time and space. Make no mistake, songs like No Dice and My Night With a Prostitute From Marseille have a Casio-tone, early house quality that many may not appreciate, especially those who gravitated toward Beirut because of the band’s authentic musicianship. In all, Holland proclaims to committed fans and critics alike that Zach Condon will not be boxed in by anyone. Even if what he does best is what we have come to know as Beirut, we should not believe he has no other aspirations or prospective direction. Condon appeals to the most saccharine elements of electronic music in a way that recontextualizes and renews his creativity. It was not a misstep so to speak, but it was dangerous. Lucky for us all, Condon’s newest proclamation is nearly as relevant as those that came before.