Beirut/Realpeople - March of the Zapotec/Holland (4 stars)

Beirut/Realpeople - March of the Zapotec/Holland



Ever since he quietly elbowed his way onto the 2006 end of year polls of several critical organs with debut Gulag Orkestra, there’s been intrigue surrounding Zack Condon and his peculiar combination of Eastern European party music, heartfelt baritone croon and refined pop sensibilities. Every bit the musical prodigy, playing most of the instruments, despite it sounding like (and originally mistakenly assumed to be) a documentary recording of a ten-piece marching band, his latest release is a pair of EPs showcasing two different sides to his unique musical vision.

March of the Zapotec retreads faux naive folk ground, this time with a Mexican bent and a plaintive tone amid the oompah, accordian and unforgiving Mariachi horns. Throughout, the gentle meandering vocal, sounding in the vein of Midlake or King Creosote, keeps the whole enterprise within the confines of pop music.

Resurrecting a pre-Beirut Condon moniker, the Holland EP from Realpeople is a different project entirely. ‘No Dice’ is straight machine music with the burbles, kick drums, snappy snares and wibbling synths of indietronica. Surprisingly, there is some overlap between the EPs, with ‘The Concubine’ bringing together both harmonium with synth warbles, and if you’ve ever wondered Boards of Canada would sound like with a horn section and a vocalist, ‘Venice’ ends your wait.

Less chalk and cheese twins, more like siblings separated at birth, reunited and surprised at what they have in common, for lesser artists this sort of thing could be seen as clever-clever display of versatility, but each is so well put together and exquisitely arranged that it’s hard not to be taken into his world.

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