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Beirut

Artifacts

    Artifacts began humbly as a means of compiling a few early Beirut EPs for a proper physical release. However, as Zach Condon explains in album’s excellent liner notes, reconnecting with old recordings through fresh ears turned a simple re-issue project into something much more expansive. “When the decision came to re-release this collection, I found myself digging through hard drives looking for something extra to add to the compilation. What started as a few extra unreleased tracks from my formative recording years quickly grew into an entire extra records-worth of music from my past, and a larger project of remixing and remastering everything I found for good measure.”

    Artifacts is a phylogenetic tree. A double-LP’s worth music that traces the evolution of Beirut from a 14-year old Condon’s first attempts at bringing the music he heard in his mind to life, to the fully formed Beirut we know today.



    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: An essential collection of early Beirut bits and pieces, lovingly reworked and remastered by condon, and brought out with a lovely booklet explaining the pieces. Including possibly my favourite Beirut work, The Lon Gisland EP. Ace

    TRACK LISTING

    SIDE A
    01. Elephant Gun
    02. My Family's Role In The World Revolution
    03. Scenic World
    04. The Long Island Sound
    05. Carousels
    06. Transatantique
    07. O Leãozinho
    SIDE B
    08. Autumn Tall Tales
    09. Fyodor Dormant
    10. Poisoning Claude
    11. Bercy
    12. Your Sails
    13. Irrlichter
    SIDE C
    14. Sicily
    15. Now I'm Gone
    16. Napoleon On The Bellerophon
    17. Interior Of A Dutch House
    18. Fountains And Tramways
    19. Hot Air Balloon
    SIDE D
    20. Fisher Island Sound
    21. So Slowly
    22. Die Treue Zum Ursprung
    23. The Crossing
    24. Zagora
    25. Le Phare Du Cap Bon
    26. Babylon

    Gallipoli, Beirut’s fifth album, started life when Zach Condon returned to his old Farfisa organ, the same one he used to write his first two albums, Gulag Orkestar (2006) and The Flying Club Cup (2007). After stints writing and recording in both New York and Berlin, with time for Zach to recover from a broken arm factored in, band plus producer Gabe Wax (Speedy Ortiz, Soccer Mommy, Adrianne Lenker / Big Thief) headed to Puglia in Italy to finish the album.

    With the remote rural setting “the right amount of isolated”, an intense month of 12 to 16-hour days in the studio with day trips around the coastline followed. Inspired by the surroundings, Gallipoli is unintentionally more visceral than Beirut’s more recent albums, alive with an energy that is further enhanced by every creak and groan of their instruments, every detuned note, and all amp buzz and technical malfunction being left in the cracks of the songs.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: There's always been something mesmerising about Beirut, their exotic choice of rhythms and instrumentation coalescing with their minimal songwriting style and almost ethereal vocal projection. You'll be delighted to know that this one is every bit the excellent follow-up to 2015's 'No No No', and (thankfully) a little longer. Superb stuff.

    TRACK LISTING

    When I Die
    Gallipoli
    Varieties Of Exile
    On Mainau Island
    I Giardini
    Gauze Für Zah
    Corfu
    Landslide
    Family Curse
    Light In The Atoll
    We Never Lived Here
    Fin

    It’s December 2013, and Zach Condon is in an Australian hospital. He’s at the tail end of a 3-year non-stop world tour, suffering from health problems brought on by severe exhaustion, fighting through a messy divorce, and is trying in vain to escape the reality that’s dismantling around him and within him. From the hospital, he makes the difficult decision to cancel the rest of the tour. “I had completely broken down and my body was making me pay for it,” Condon recalls from his east Williamsburg home. Ironically, the artist so widely recognised for breaking geographical boundaries was being undone halfway around the world. Pensively, Condon concludes, “For the first time in my life, I was facing extreme self doubt. I had hit rock bottom.”

    Met with enormous success at age 19, Condon’s career up to that point had been relatively smooth sailing. But now post Australia he finds himself back at home in Brooklyn and unable to write songs. It was 2014, and at age 28 he found himself completely lost. “I couldn’t fathom how one day I was capable of it and one day I wasn’t,” Condon remarks. The darkness clouding his physical and mental health had fully infected his creative and artistic abilities.

    But this darkness contained a spark of light: he had fallen in love with a woman who inspired him to turn it around. Condon recalls, “having a positive presence like her both provides a healthy guiding force and shines a light on all the negative things in your life. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without her.” The two retreated to Turkey Summer of 2014, which proved to be the ultimate keystone in his personal renewal. It has since become their second home, providing perspective in both geographical and political landscapes. He was taken in and cared for by her family there for months (she is Turkish), and given a home base to build around, all during the summer of the Gezi Park riots.

    Upon returning, still not fully himself, Condon would find himself uncertain, this time in the studio. “I would turn my phone off and be holed up in my rehearsal space alone for days at a time,” says Condon, “and come out with nothing.” He would compose and discard entire albums’ worth of material. For Condon, the songs needed to be born from melody, and if the melodies weren’t coming, the songs would never transpire.

    So, with his back against the proverbial wall, Condon began a new approach, starting from scratch in Fall 2014 with nothing but an open mind and the musical camaraderie of bandmates Paul Collins (bass) and Nick Petree (drums). For two full months they hammered away daily, creating the foundations for what would evolve into No No No (as well as countless songs that would carpet the cutting room floor).

    With winter approaching, he booked two weeks at a studio that, by sheer chance and unbeknownst to him, was located a few blocks from his home. This proximity would prove crucial, as the two weeks of recording turned out to overlap with some of the worst winter weather in NYC history – it was one of the coldest and snowiest on record – a fitting climax to the events of the past four years.

    With his band by his side, No No No suddenly began to take shape, creating an exponentially productive excitement. Those two weeks in the studio, with blizzard after blizzard raging outside, resulted in Condon’s most vibrant and spirited record to date. On past records, Condon composed mostly on his own, electronically, building on sounds and arrangements with ProTools. This time around, the songs were constructed live, in the moment, by the band, and are more concert-ready than ever as a result. The band was significantly stripped down: guitar, piano, bass, and drums formed the bulk of the arrangements as opposed to the more obscure instruments for which he was initially known. No No No opens with a sort of tribal drum beat, quickly giving way to a more western/modern snare sound and drum machine – a subtle wink at Beirut’s own musical transformation.

    There’s a caffeinated exuberance throughout the entirety of the record. The opening songs are particularly upbeat and awake, reflective of Condon’s newfound clarity, so much so in fact, that the fifth song, the instrumental breather ‘As Needed’ is exactly that – a necessary intermission. The second half picks up where it left off, with effervescent percussion across pop songs, often led by bubbly piano lines that showcase Condon’s development as a pianist.

    If the darkest hour is right before the dawn, Condon’s dawn is the brightest point in his still-young career. He’s found his true artistic identity as a songwriter – one that greatly abandons many of the formulas for which he was first known. The songwriter within Condon has always been there, albeit sonically veiled on past records. It’s never been presented so prominently, and finds Beirut on its most stable and convincing footing yet.

    TRACK LISTING

    01. Gibraltar
    02. No No No
    03. At Once
    04. August Holland
    05. As Needed
    06. Perth
    07. Pacheco
    08. Fener
    09. So Allowed


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