Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mitch: Beirut’s “Nantes” and Phantom Brains in Space

[Guest blogger Mitch with a music review. I want to see more stuff on here about music, using youtube clips. Get to work, all of you.]

My new favorite band is Beirut, a pretty much one-man show put on by 22-year-old Zach Condon. This is the video for the song “Nantes” off the new(ish) album The Flying Cup Club:

The video makes magic an all-too common feeling New Yorkers get every morning — putting on your iPod, going down the stairs and heading off to work. I like that the music is obviously recorded live and I’m AMAZED that the acoustics are as good as they are with all those instruments.

The song itself exhibits all the best elements of Condon’s textured, peculiar sound. Attitude-wise “Nantes” manages to exude both jubilance and melancholy, but never wholly elects one over the other. There are only 70 words in the song and most of them are warbled incoherently. All the instrumentation seems to be on loan from the coast of France (where the city Nantes is located) and my enjoyment Condon’s music in general probably comes from that. (Since the movie Amelie I think everyone has grown a soft spot for vampy, romantic accordions.) Though it’s lost in this live recording, the music has this terrific tinny quality on the album, as if it’s being played through a gramophone in a steel supply closet.

The pile up of these straightforward, amateurish components produces a mysteriously euphoric digression that is equal parts folk music, French New-Wave film score and high school marching band. Maybe it’s not music for Fraction to “load his guns to by the early light of dawn,” but it could certainly underscore him chasing a red balloon through the streets of Paris. If there is muzak playing in the waiting room of Heaven, it probably sounds a lot like Beirut.

On a completely unrelated yet-still-somehow-related note, there was a fantastic article called “Big Brain Theory: Have Cosmologists Lost Theirs?” in the Science section of the New York Times today. Briefly, the article explores the “Boltzmann Brain Problem,” which is a bizarre extension of the notion that anything that can happen in an infinite Universe IS happening. In this case, that an exact living copy of your brain can (and according to science as we know it, must) materialize into empty space trillions of light years away.

I only mention this because the Beirut song and this article were both rattling around in head today and I’m fascinated by how my mind managed to link two completely isolated pieces of information. Now when I hear the lyrics “well it's been a long time, long time now/ since I've seen you smile” I will only ever be able to picture a lovesick brain floating somewhere in the middle of the Universe.


Darius Kazemi said...

The people who made the video (the series is called "takeaway music") also did an amazing Arcade Fire video in the same style.

Kevin Melrose said...

There are "Take-Away Show" versions of Nantes and The Penalty:

Ping33 said...

That's some good shit Geoff. Me and my wife really dug it... went on to download/steal the album.
It reminds me of NMH meets Devendra Banhart.

Geoff Klock said...

Ping -- just to be extra clear, it was mitch who wrote the post above. But I am with you -- it sounds very Elephant 6, and I dig that.

Mitch said...

Well, I'm glad everybody liked it- I can't believe I didn't mention the conk shell, but what can you do? This isn't even my favorite Beirut song, either. That would be "Guyamas Sonora" which can be found here:

Ping33 said...

I'll have to check that one out. I was a little let down by the album I DLed... Nantes was by FAR the best song on it.

Streebo said...

"Now when I hear the lyrics “well it's been a long time, long time now/ since I've seen you smile” I will only ever be able to picture a lovesick brain floating somewhere in the middle of the Universe."

That was pure gold, Mitch!