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Gulag Orkestar [Import]

Beirut Audio CD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 18.20 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought


Product Details


1. The Gulag Orkestar
2. Prenzlauerberg
3. Brandenburg
4. Postcards from Italy
5. Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)
6. Rhineland (Heartland)
7. Scenic World
8. Bratislava
9. The Bunker
10. The Canals of Our City
11. After the Curtain

Product Description

Product Description

Only 19 and already a (blog) superstar, Zach Condon, a.k.a. Beirut, is one Web phenom worth the praise. His debut album, Gulag Orkestar, is a mix of Eastern European whimsy and old-fashioned indie-rock wailing. This Internet exclusive predates the material on that album, and its production is a bit ''home demo,'' but the chintzy drum-machine beat, yodel-y background vocals, and muted trumpet are charming all the same. Condon sounds well beyond his teens, as his Rufus Wainwright-type croon hints at many a bewildered hangover. Download the track for free courtesy of Beirut's site.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Play, Orkestar! Feb. 22 2007
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
To be honest, when I think of psychedelic bands I don't usually think of Balkan folk music. But with the release of Beirut's "Gulag Orkestar," I may have to revise my thinking.

This new band consists of teenage musician Zach Condon, along with people from Neutral Milk Hotel and A Hawk and a Hacksaw, making bittersweet folkpop and danceable marches. Imagine a band of slightly drunk gypsies on parade, and you'll have the general idea of how it sounds.

It opens slow, with a gentle piano and blaring horns. The title track meanders in circles and finally dies away... only to be reborn as a swaying march. Halfway through, Condon joins in with some mournful wails and equally mournful singing. That turns around in "Prenzluerberg," where the singing is just as melancholy, but the music is a cheerier march.

From there on, the trio tries out those styles and everything in between -- rattly folk with tambourines and horns, danceable folkpop, and tinkly klezmer music. Yes, tinkly klezmer. They get downright happy in "Scenic World," a colorful glockenspiel song that is just barely grounded by some quick violins.

After that, "Gulah Orkestar" is pretty upbeat, with a string of swaying marches and upbeat folk acoustics. The album's finale is a bit of a head-scratcher, though. "After the Curtain" is a relatively bare-bones song with Condon singing over applause and a dancing glockenspiel. I don't know how to fit that one in.

And it's a good thing Condon's musical talents are being backed by experienced musicians, so we can get a bittersweet, atmospheric taste of whatever he heard there. The main problem is that the less folky songs don't really fit in -- without them, the album would have been a lot better. But as it is, it's a remarkable achievement.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Hidden Gypsy Gem Sept. 29 2006
Format:Audio CD
I've never reviewed anything so please have patience. I'll give you a basic, to-the-point opinion because I really want people to experience this cd if they haven't already!

I bought this album after listening to one track ("Postcards From Italy") I found on some obscure snobby music website and I am extremely glad I went with a gut instinct.

This album is the result of a now Brooklyn-based nineteen year old Zach Condon's most likely drunken adventures in Europe. He quit high school in Albuquerque at the age of sixteen and travelled the continent. Along the way somewhere, he was exposed to Balkan gypsy music and became entranced by it. When he eventually returned to the US, he began creating an album using organs, horns, violins, cellos, ukuleles, mandolins, clarinets, you name it. Adding his own unique vocal talent and with help from Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeremy Barnes and A Hawk & A Hacksaw's Heather Trost, he creatively combined the gypsy feel of Eastern European and folk music into "Gulah Orkestar". The songs on this album are both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. Condon's deep, haunting, mature, almost "crooning" voice will captivate you long before you realise you're swaying along to the swelling string and brass instrumentals. I, personally, think "Gulag Orkestar" would appeal to anyone who enjoys traditional and modern folk music, and music involving elaborate backing sounds/instrumentals. Fans of Jens Lekman, The Magnetic Fields, Sufjan Stevens, and possibly Devendra Banhart should definately give this one a try!
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5.0 out of 5 stars perfection Sept. 26 2010
Format:LP Record
zach condon is truly a prodigy and has really helped european folk reach closer and closer to mainstream listeners it's inspiring that music of this caliber and passion with the soul of the old world can still exist today, and i couldnt be any happier than owning it on vinyl if this music intrigues you at all i suggest you buy all of it. as most music these days is half music half image its really quite great to find pure 100% music
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  50 reviews
77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing debut album May 11 2006
By somethingexcellent - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Largely the work of an ambitious youngster named Zach Condon, Gulag Orkestar is an indie rock album filtered through the mind of a teenager who dropped out of high school to travel across Europe and soak in as much culture and music as possible. The result is something that sounds a bit like the Microphones crossed with Neutral Milk Hotel. It might be the only rock album you hear that doesn't contain any guitars, and it conveys an emotional and worldly power of the likes I've not heard in some time.

Largely inspired by Balkan folk music, the album moves through mournful ballads and more upbeat tracks (that sound more like the work of a 10-plus member ensemble) with ease, layering horns, stringed instruments, ukeleles, mandolins, glockenspiel, drum, organs, piano, and other percussion under the soulful vocals of Condon himself, who has a similar range and style as Andrew Bird. The disc opens with the album-titled track of "The Gulag Orkestar," and after some warbling horns and cascading piano, the track turns into a shuffling march that finds Condon soaring over the top of it all with his rich croon.

The album really hits stride with the gorgeous "Bandenburg," which finds deft mandolins playing out over heaving drums and percussion as accordions wheeze and the track builds gracefully with delightful horn sections and layered vocals. "Postcards From Italy" follows, and it may very well be the best track on the disc, moving along with a playful opening section that mixes shuffling mandolin, piano and horns before shifting halfway through to a more delicate (and reflective) section that completely tugs at the heartstrings before bursting into a celebratory ending that's absolutely stunning.

The second half of the album finds Condon taking a few more chances, and amazingly he pulls things off just about every time. "Scenic World" uses a programmed casio-beat that sounds straight out of Magnetic Fields, but layers horns and accordion over the top for something completely unique while "After The Curtain" takes the non-traditional instrumentation and runs it through some filters, giving the track a slight electronic tinge without making it ever feel out of place. It seems like every year there's an album that comes completely out of nowhere and really stuns me, and this year that title is easily held by Beirut with Gulag Orkestar. An outstanding debut album, and easily one of my favorite releases of the year so far.

(from almost cool music reviews)
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing debut album! April 22 2007
By Manny Hernandez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Finding out about Beirut was one of the best things to happen to me (musically) in 2007. When I first heard their EP "Lon Gisland", I quickly proceeded to dig back in the past works by this fascinating act.

Beirut blends a lo-fi sound not unlike a group of East European gipsies with a folk feel like Sufjan Stevens with leader Zach Condon's voice coming across much like David Byrne. The result is an exquisite and upbeat album that makes your heart pound with excitement making you want to jump, clap and laugh, with "Postcards From Italy" being one of the highlights.

Thinking that this was Beirut's debut album just blows me away. If you like it, by all means pick up "Lon Gisland".
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Play, Orkestar! June 14 2006
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
To be honest, when I think of Elephant 6 bands I don't usually think of Balkan folk music. But with the release of Beirut's "Gulag Orkestar," I may have to revise my thinking.

This new band consists of teenage musician Zach Condon, along with people from Neutral Milk Hotel and A Hawk and a Hacksaw, making bittersweet folkpop and danceable marches. Imagine a band of slightly drunk gypsies on parade, and you'll have the general idea of how it sounds.

It opens slow, with a gentle piano and blaring horns. The title track meanders in circles and finally dies away... only to be reborn as a swaying march. Halfway through, Condon joins in with some mournful wails and equally mournful singing. That turns around in "Prenzluerberg," where the singing is just as melancholy, but the music is a cheerier march.

From there on, the trio tries out those styles and everything in between -- rattly folk with tambourines and horns, danceable folkpop, and tinkly klezmer music. Yes, tinkly klezmer. They get downright happy in "Scenic World," a colorful glockenspiel song that is just barely grounded by some quick violins.

After that, "Gulah Orkestar" is pretty upbeat, with a string of swaying marches and upbeat folk acoustics. The album's finale is a bit of a head-scratcher, though. "After the Curtain" is a relatively bare-bones song with Condon singing over applause and a dancing glockenspiel. I don't know how to fit that one in.

Basically this album is what happens when an American teenager drops out and crosses Eastern Europe, soaking up the folk music as he goes.

And it's a good thing Condon's musical talents are being backed by experienced musicians, so we can get a bittersweet, atmospheric taste of whatever he heard there. The main problem is that the less folky songs don't really fit in -- without them, the album would have been a lot better. But as it is, it's a remarkable achievement.

Condon has a pretty deep voice for someone so young, and he fills it with the longing and beauty that traditional singing often has. And he's assisted by some very talented musicians: Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, both of whom work in the psych-folk band A Hawk and a Hacksaw. So of course, they have a good ear for this sort of thing.

So how do they manage? Soundwise, it's like someone took the gypsy out of Gogol Bordello and slapped it on Neutral Milk Hotel. The songs are brimming with violins, horns, accordion, mandolin, pianos, ukeleles, glockenspiel and many others. These instruments are so smoothly blended that it sounds like at least a dozen people are playing at any one time, and that they've played this music their whole lives.

"Gulag Orkestar" is a pretty, heart-tugging album that will make you think of quaint European villages in the springtime. Definitely worth listening to, many times.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply beautifull May 22 2007
By N. Dimitrakopoulos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is definitely one of the most influential albums i've heard recently and maybe ever. It combines a bit of Balkan sounds, a bit of Tiersen (yes you've definitely heard of him!) and a bit (just a little bit) of indie and maybe post rock - at least, this is what my ears tell me :).

The most interesting thing maybe, is that the whole album is mostly the work of a single person (Zach Condon) whose age is about 20. When i first listened the album i thought that this was composed either from a Balkan band / orchestra or from some mature musicians. Well, i was wrong! Most of the recordings were made by him in his own house! This is his third personal album but the first under the "Beirut" name.

It is difficult to say which tracks are worthing from this album since most of them do! Few exceptions exist of course, but they are the exceptions and not the rule ;)

So, five stars from me and highly suggested to anyone who's looking for something fresh, inspiring and different. Give it a try and you won't be disappointed
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Debut Album To Be Remembered May 15 2007
By Stevens - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Gulag Orkestar, the debut album of Albuquerque native and then nineteen year old Zach Condon, is a memorable and beautiful musical journey through the beer halls and streets of Eastern Europe. Condon, whose production of the album was helped by Jeremy Barnes (Neutral Milk Hotel, A Hawk and a Hacksaw) and Heather Trost (A Hawk and a Hacksaw), was heavily influenced by the alluring, folk sounds of violins, cellos, ukuleles, mandolins, glockenspiels, drums, tambourines, clarinets, pianos and the accordion. These instruments, brought together in the style of Balkan folk music, play host to Condon's voice. His crooning, dusty voice rides over every melody.

The result of the collaboration of the above is a haunting collection of mournful ballads and pulsating beats that touch the human spirit. Like the tide, this music ebbs and flows and washes over you again and again. The bohemian wonder that has simply poured from the previously unknown artist is simply extraordinary. This musical achievement heralds Condon as one of our most promising new arrivals yet.
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