Gulag Orkestar
Ba Da Bing Records

This disc is an example of what is so lovely about independent music: singular, eccentric musicians/composers working in some utterly disconnected deep musical world, emerging later with a completed work as they squint in the light of day.

Zach Condron, the heart of Beirut, is a nineteen-year-old kid from NYC via Albuquerque, New Mexico. But you can know that only by being told. Just hearing this music alone would have convinced you that it sprang from a rag-tag group of musicians from the Balkans, circa the 1950s. A lost artifact, found and dusted off, as if it had hung in an antique shop for decades.

Yet his intuitive, almost innocent approach works well for a modern audience. Heaps of acoustic instruments clutter each tune: "a trumpet from Paris, farfisa organ, accordion, piano, ukelele, mandolin, glockenspiel, violin, cello, tambourine, The air powered organ I bought on twelfth street, Congo drum donated from the neighbors . . ."

The recording sounds like it was made with plastic toy microphones and never emerges from an overall cheap feel (Condron claims he used "A broken microphone stolen from the University of New Mexico"). Still, this only adds to the charm and puts the music in perhaps a proper context consistent with its intent. If this album succeeds, maybe next time around there'll be a proper budget.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Wow, this is effing great. I'm loving it. Thanks for the recommendation," JI. I'll have to track these guys down and see them live. The Myspace page lists ""Brooklyn."" I bet I know someone who knows him; the music scene is small.

Donald N.'s picture

Bought this album awhile back and I have to say it keeps me coming back for more - highly recommended!