Gulag Orkestar

Ba Da Bing!

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$38.00 SGD
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$38.00 SGD


A TAV Essential Listening Album.

While it may sound like an entire Balkan gypsy orchestra playing modern songs as mournful ballads and upbeat marches, Beirut’s first album, Gulag Orkestar, is actually the work of 19-year-old Albuquerque native Zach Condon, with an assist from Jeremy Barnes (Neutral Milk Hotel, A Hawk and a Hacksaw). There are no guitars on this album; instead, horns, violins, cellos, ukuleles, mandolins, glockenspiel, drums, tambourines, congas, organs, pianos, clarinets and accordions all build and break around Condon’s deep-voiced crooner vocals, swaying to the Eastern European beats like a drunken twelve-member carnival band. 

Though young, Condon has already recorded several albums of astonishing diversity. He recorded under the name Real People when he was fifteen, crafting an electronic record inspired by his love of the Magnetic Fields. At sixteen, he recorded an entire doo-wop album that sounds a bit like like Frankie and the Teenagers. Although he was a straight-A student, in 2002 Condon dropped out of school to travel Europe, cavorting and partying with the locals wherever he went. During one of these evenings that he was first exposed to Balkan gypsy music, blasting from an upstairs apartment. Condon went to investigate, and stayed up all night with a Serbian artist, going through albums country by country, note for note. Gulag Orkestar is the direct result of what he learned that night. 

This past winter, Condon headed to Sea Side Studios in Brooklyn’s Park Slope where, along with Barnes and A Hawk and a Hacksaw’s Heather Trost, he added percussion and violin overdubs to his original compositions. The resulting record sounds like a Neutral Milk Hotel from behind the iron curtain (for those playing along at home, look into the Boban Markovic Orchestra). Gulag Orkestar is a glorious sweep of music, striking in its emotional content and stunning in its scope.  - Ba Da Bing Records

”Beirut's received quite a bit of pre-release buzz. He deserves some of it. His tuneful Balkan stomp is fairly unique within the indie realm, an aesthetic shared with Man Man, Gogol Bordello, and Barbez but few others. That, and for a 19-year-old from Albuquerque (now living in Brooklyn), he sounds like an old man sipping vodka and humming along to Tchaikovsky while the neighborhood kids play stick ball or drink egg creams. ...

Time and again, the most powerful element of Gulag Orkestar, and what ought to be emphasized, is Condon's acrobatic, powerful, emotionally nuanced voice. It could carry any style of music. Fixate for a second on the stuff he's doing on "Rhineland (Heartland)". The lyrics are dopey, but his trills and whirls are mind-blowing. Pairing these melodies with Eastern European accouterments in lieu of standard guitar-pop creates an obvious appeal. Still, the question ought to be asked: Are the songs really so incredible or do they simply mimic and mine musical traditions unfamiliar to the average indie rock fan? That said, the best songs here are a joy and the average and ho-hum tunes even have a thick and aesthetically appealing atmosphere-- in other words, it's an impressive and precocious debut.” – Pitchfork

Item description:




Gulag Orkestar


Ba Da Bing!


Vinyl, LP, Album



Release Date:



Indie, Rock, Folk, World


Indie Rock, Pop, Neofolk, Male Vocals

Catalog No: