Sunday, January 25, 2009

Realpeople - Holland EP

The first thing you notice is an absence of the exotic flare so prevalent in every previous release by Beirut's Zach Condon (tagged here as Realpeople, one of his pre-Beirut pseudonyms). No horn section or accordion sweeping you away to some foreign European festivity, but rather the image of a dude hunched over his Casio CZ-101 poking the keys meticulously with only his two index fingers. Don't freak out yet, be patient as Condon's melodic crooning enters the scene and makes everything ok.
Althought the backing music may not reveal, the opening track "My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille" revisits Condon's fascination with Europe, as he sings about morals and an encounter with...well, read the title. Only Condon's delicate voice and phrasing could make such a relationship sound so romantic.

More synthesized beats and melodies follow on "My Wife, Lost in the Wild", and once again Condon's vocals bring everything together to enhance the track as a whole. Then, as if he knew we'd be waiting for it, "Venice" incorporates the sounds of Beirut with brief yet perfectly placed horns nestled by a Zero 7-like echoing ambiance.

Continuing with what he knows best, more horns and accordion lead the way through "The Concubine", the track most similar to Condon's prior releases. But, not for long, as the final track "No Dice" returns to the synth accompaniment like the opener, this time slightly more upbeat. This instrumental is so far at the other end of the spectrum than what we are used to from Condon; I'm amazed it came from the same mind that wrote "Elephant Gun".

As fans of an artist, we rarely appreciate when they deviate from what made you love them in the first place...unless, of course, it's good. In Condon's case, I respect his exploration into the pop/synth genre, and think he made a commendable attempt. His vocal delivery, alluring lyrics and often clever fusion of electronic and acoustic sounds make this an interesting listen to say the least; but I think the multi-cultural sound he has going with Beirut has more intriguing paths to follow other than this one.


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