Gulag Orkestar

Beirut

Gulag Orkestar

Zach Condon, the twenty year-old songwriter and multi-instrumentalist behind Beirut, voice steeped in harsh kvass and Prima tobacco, delivers a highly idealized take on Eastern European musical culture over a theatrical musical backing. Cracked brass, wailing violins and distressed accordions, it all sounds like the soundtrack to one of Emir Kusturica’s cinematic fever dreams. Still, Condon’s unapologetically ersatz brand of gypsy folk does not deserve the ire of musical purists. Far from being a po-faced ethnomusicologist, Condon is a musical fantasist of the highest order who maniacally attacks gypsy music with an eye to sublimity over authenticity. The exotic musical forgeries of Tom Waits and David Byrne are his true touchstones. Yet for all of its borrowed gypsy attire, Gulag Orkestar’s star struck romanticism hints that not all of Condon’s influences hail from the far side of the iron curtain. “Postcards From Italy” stumbles skyward on a shambolic chord progression borrowed from Bowie’s “Man Who Sold The World”, while “The Scenic World” is an exercise in unabashed Stephin Merritt worship. With Gulag Orkestar Zach Condon has charted a fantastical musical landscape where Gypsy bards and Morrissey acolytes meet to compare compositions.

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