Having released the internationally celebrated Gulag Orkestar in May of 2006, Beirut has been under the public gaze for little more than a year. Yet, within that short time, the band has...Expand
Having released the internationally celebrated Gulag Orkestar in May of 2006, Beirut has been under the public gaze for little more than a year. Yet, within that short time, the band has experienced travels to Russia, Poland, Turkey and throughout North America and Europe, as well as a tsunami of interviews, photoshoots and features. It has been a year where associations with Lebanon's capital city turned yet again from romantic to tragic, and where a great fervor could develop around an album conceived and constructed in a teenager's New Mexico bedroom.
Zach Condon recorded Gulag at his parent's home shortly after quitting college. For him, it was nothing new, having recorded hundreds of songs since he was fifteen the same way. However, as this was his first record to get properly released, with the flood of attention, as online raves lead to reverential fandom, he set about constructing a full band to perform. Astonishingly, he proved himself as talented a bandleader as composer. New songs were written, album songs reworked, and the band's shows quickly developed to dramatic heights far beyond its mere months-long existence (do an online search of live reviews for proof). This band went on to record an EP, Lon Gisland (pronounce with an East New York accent), which marked the first Beirut recordings with the live ensemble.
Six months of recording has led to The Flying Club Cup. Inspired by an obscure photo from 1910 depicting hot air balloons taking flight mere steps away from the Eiffel Tower, an image Zach stuck to the wall for inspiration, The Flying Club Cup is an homage to France's culture, fashion, history and music. In fact, each song intends to evoke a different French city. Yes, two years ago, Condon was immersing himself in Balkan folk, absorbing the newly discovered sounds, scales and styles. Two years ago. That's an even longer time when you are 21 years old. He absorbed what he heard the sonic joys of a skeletally structured, cacophonic ensemble and moved west. Soaking up the likes of Francois Hardy, Charles Aznavour and, most notably, Jacques Brel (a huge influence on both Scott Walker and Mark E Smith), Condon has been articulating his conversational French, especially during between-song-banter at shows. However, the album, which like all of Beirut's music waxes nostalgic about the cultures it emulates, was recorded far from its heart's epicenter.