The vagabond rip tide of Beirut


Zack Condon’s baritone moan floats above the ambient synth-organ with half-mumbled phrases of loneliness and reconciliation. Reminiscent of ages where marching bands orchestrated gentlemen singing a Capella, Beirut transports listeners to pastoral simplicity.

Beirut was the original project of Condon, who played the trumpet in a jazz band as a teenager. After the singer completed his travels to Europe, he began recording much of the first album, Gulag Orkestar, in a dorm room of the University of New Mexico. Beirut developed into a vagabond band where members could come and go and contribute as they like. Much of the live performances consist of Ben Lanz, Kyle Resnick, Paul Collins, Nick Petree and Perrin Cloutier. Despite having a constant ebb and flow of contributors, the band’s music offers little variation.

The first song in The Rip Tide uses the aesthetic combination of trumpet, accordion, violin and baritone sax. Condon’s dark wooded voice accompanies the orchestra singing of flames burning out and homes that no longer are in “A Candle’s Fire”.

Much like the song “The Peacock”, Beirut pulls together complimentary hues of world music and indie-rock in their plumage. The Rip Tide has been labelled for the band’s final discovery of style, but in Condon’s own words, it is really just about “flirtation and stuff”. The singer does state that this album was particularly simpler, an aim at escaping “the forced complexities… of a young boy standing on tiptoes to try and seem sophisticated.”

Nothing about their music is simplistic. Melancholic? The ensemble of instruments demands it so. Beirut’s melancholy carries the quality of wine. Condon’s voice is either a deep red oak every pretentious hipster desires, or the maudlin Rosé accompanying romantic movies with the girls. Despite providing the perfect atmosphere for drinking cognac and smoking pipe, The Rip Tide’s selection reminds one of a stumbled lover desperate to describe his feelings over the period of nine songs. Unfortunately, listeners are left dazed as to what Condon was trying to say by the end of the rather false note in “Port of Call”.

The Rip Tide’s musical quality has certainly developed, if not mastered, the instrumental collaboration. The folk-electronica, baroque pop leaves listeners in awe of the talent seeping out of each instrument used on stage- and there are many. Then again, the band has been practicing over the course of four albums. If you are a fan of repetitive maudlin, their 2011 album is not to be blown out like their flame.

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