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Beirut/Realpeople: March Of The Zapotec/Holland


Album: March Of The Zapotec/Holland
Label: Ba Da Bing

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On some kind of self-funded cultural exchange last year, Beirut’s Zach Condon traveled to Oaxaca, wrangled and recorded a local funeral band, then returned to New York to splice the results with contributions from his usual crew. As it turns out, the distance between oompah music and mariachi is much shorter than a globe would suggest. The March Of The Zapotec EP opens with a field-recorded brass band playing the streets of Mexico (the song’s title, “El Zocalo,” means “town square”), and within 30 seconds, listeners are standing in the Balkans listening to a careening version of a Hispanic folk tale (“La Llorona”). But don’t fault Condon for his exceedingly honed conqueror’s instinct: Laying down a deeply blue sax solo before a grandiose march points to the kind of brilliance that preclude cries of cultural co-option, and instead implies the forging of some previously uncharted musical form. Not so for this release’s second half, the Holland EP. Condon’s electronic bedroom project, Realpeople, is half-baked at best. The production could be more daring, the disparity between songs could be smaller (“Venice” apes Boards Of Canada, while “No Dice” sounds like bad house), and Condon’s voice sounds glaringly melodramatic without any rich instrumentation to mitigate its effect. He should probably stick to his main gig from here on out.