Album Reviews: Beirut & Sleepy Eyes of Death

beirut_eps

Beirut/Realpeople - March of the Zapotec/Holland

Beirut’s Zach Condon never ceases to outdo himself. His new EP (out February 17th on his own label, Pompeii Records) demonstrates his versatility and talent as a musician. The EP is split into two parts: March of the Zapotec, which is credited to Beirut, and Holland, which is credited to one of Condon’s pre-Beirut projects, Realpeople.

For March of the Zapotec, Condon traveled to a remote part of Oaxaca, Mexico, with a translator to find a band to play on his new album. What he found was The Jiminez Band, a 19-man funeral band just outside of the tiny weaver village of Teotitlan del Valle. Though he made a point of playing with a Mexican band, and many of these songs, such as “La Llorona,” are based on Mexican themes and legends, March of the Zapotec doesn’t really seem to depart from older Beirut works. The Balkan influence still comes through loud and clear, though occasionally you’ll hear Mexican-influenced horns thrown in for good measure. The songs are beautiful, but the whole process seems a little superfluous.

Holland is something different altogether. Some of the songs are new, and others, like “My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille” and “Venice”, were previously released on compilations. The Realpeople songs are more digitally driven, sounding more like Condon’s work with Alaska In Winter than anything released by Beirut (though this does not mean the he abandons completely his trademark horns or accordion). I was a little skeptical at first, but this is definitely my favorite “half” of the EP. Condon arranged the music beautifully to fit his distinctive voice. My favorite is “My Wife, Lost In The Wild”. The melodies are simple, but the sound layering is masterful, and the harmonies complex and intriguing. Holland is an almost complete departure from most of Condon’s better-known music, but his personal touch is definitely there. The EP is unmistakably good, and unmistakably a Zach Condon original.


sleepyeyes_cd

Sleepy Eyes Of Death - Dark Signals

Seattle shoegaze darlings Sleepy Eyes of Death have received a lot of attention over the last two years for their unusual blend of shoegaze and dance-driven electronica. In their 2007 release, Street Lights for a Ribcage, they seemed to find a comfortable balance between the two genres, but gave priority to blanketing their viewers with very dense shoegazey sound. In their latest release, Dark Signals (released January 20th), they take their sound to a whole new level.

Though they do not abandon their dense sound in Dark Signals, Sleepy Eyes of Death move things in the direction of the very electronic, making use of their arsenal of instruments, including half a dozen keyboards and a drum machine (not to mention live drums, guitars, etc.). These mostly-instrumental songs are all beautifully composed, and seem to air on a lighter side than Street Lights -- some, like “Pierce the Air” are even borderline house music dancey.

Sleepy Eyes of Death’s mastery of dense shoegazey sound shines through beautifully in Dark Signals, especially in the second half of the EP, where heavy drums and heavy distortion get their fair share of the limelight in “Pulse from Breath” and “Crushed by Stars”.

This second release from Sleepy Eyes of Death is very impressive. Their command of their instruments and sound are masterful, and I really look forward to seeing what they release in the future.

Sleepy Eyes of Death will be playing at the KEXP Audioasis benefit on March 7th at Sunset Tavern with The Hands and The Beats, Man.

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