March of the Zapotec/Realpeople Holland
A Game of two halves as Brooklyn world music troop go synth pop on split disc
Rating: 7 / 10
Ed Power, 03 Mar 2009
Zach Condon’s first two albums as Beirut delved dew-eyedly into French romanticism and Balkan folk. But on this double EP he reveals himself to be a closet Stephin Merritt enthusiast, crooningly morbidly over skeletal synth lines and bedsit beats. Not that the project is a complete reboot – part one, March Of The Zapotec, was recorded with a 19-piece funeral band during a sojourn in Mexico. This is well-travelled Beirut territory but, for the first time, something feels amiss: though the arrangements are as sumptuous as anything Condon has previously presided over the songs seem weirdly adrift, flapping in the wind in search of a purpose: ‘El Zocala’ is a hopped-up horn fugue that doesn’t lead anywhere; the ukelele-driven ‘La Llorona’ Balkan foot-stomping by numbers. The real revelation is the electro-flavoured second disc, Holland, wherein Condon embarks on a partial re-invention, gutting his songbook of its florid underpinnings and allowing his gift for simple-yet-sweet melodies and snarky/sad lyrics to shine through: ‘My Night With The Prostitute’ is toweringly morose, ‘No Dices’ rides on a swell of angled Kraftwerk pulses and mournful wordplay. Recently turned 23, Condon is Brooklyn pop’s pre-eminent boy genius – if Holland has a lesson it’s that sulky angst suits him better than anyone could have guessed.
Key Track: 'My Night With The Prostitute'