by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Beirut - "Elephant Gun". Zach Condon and his team of uke-, horn-, fiddle- and drum-players have been snapped by the catfish called 4AD Records and their fish-hook debut, Gulag Orkestar, is due to be reissued in the UK on 6 November. Since we wrote about Beirut a few months ago (and since he blogged here!), lots and lots of people have bought the record from Ba Da Bing, so why should you care? Well - because of a place called Lon Gisland. I can only assume it's a small Eastern European republic, some Balkan borough. And why is it relevant? Because Beirut have issued an EP of the same name. "Elephant Gun" is 3 new songs (one instrumental), and a new version of "Scenic World" with clattering percussion and sighing accordion. At least on my copy, they're packaged on the same disk.

"Elephant Gun" is totally terrific, and at a time where Beirut hype is already cliche, when backlash is heatin' up the manifestos, it's a reminder of just why Zach was exciting us in the first place. This isn't so much gypsy music so much as music to make us sedentary indie rock kids feel like tumbleweeds; to make us feel like we're shaking dust off our jackets, and into our shoes; to make us feel like yeah we're on our way somewhere, you and i; just take my hand.

The song takes the usual form: ukelele and Condon's wobbling, sugar-and-butter voice; then accordion, straight up-and-down; then the smash of a cymbal and thumb of a bass-drum; then the whole lot of them, squeezed into the pen. Horns and violin, and just as we might tire, Condon is singing with himself, slopes on top of slopes, the sunrises folding over each-other like so many watercolours. "Let the seasons begin / take the big gun down!" We hear no gunshots - just the lumber of our big, slow hearts.

[buy the original Gulag Orkestar]

Frida Hyvonen - "Djuna!". Jose Gonzalez's fame is due mostly to his cover of The Knife's "Heartbeats", and his reputation for softness only further underlined by the other covers he performs - notably Kylie's "Hand on my Heart". But listen to Jose's record (or his work with Junip) and there's a real darkness, a dread, that works its way through that pretty acoustic guitar. It's this aspect of Gonzalez that makes him a match for the fellow Swede Frida Hyvonen, whom he's taken on tour. "Djuna!" is a lovely song, with piano pumping and a melody that winds its way round the garden gate. But it's also the lightest song on Until Death Comes, an album that's more black lacquer than cotton balls. (Oh but don't get me wrong: it's great!) An icier Joni Mitchell, a fierier Victoria Bergsman. And yet here, well, she just makes me want to see violets on my midnight walk home. (...previously)



As you can see, you can now listen to the mp3s on the site in-browser by clicking the little 'play' icons. May I suggest you do so while you read our nonsense prose?

Posted by Sean at September 28, 2006 3:00 AM

Muahahah. I love your so-called "nonsense prose".

Posted by lism. at September 28, 2006 5:02 AM

'Lon Gisland' = 'Long Island'? Just a thought.

When you say "At least on my copy, they're packaged on the same disk"- what does that mean? Is the EP available separately? Is it released yet? Or must one buy G.O. all over again to hear the new stuff? (I haven't listened to this yet, as with stuff I just know I'll buy I try not to spoil the surprise.)

Here's hoping 4AD doesn't have the same impact on Beirut as it had on The Mountain Goats... :(

Posted by Robert P at September 28, 2006 5:11 AM

thanks, lism!

Robert - yes, Lon Gisland is definitely Long Island. I was making a not-funny joke. And it's my understanding that the new EP will only come with 4AD purchases of Gulag Orkestar (ie, it won't be sold properly). On my promo copy, it's just the one disc with bonus tracks at the end.

Posted by Sean at September 28, 2006 5:36 AM

Love the new listening plugin!
Love Beirut as well, definitely one of my favorite recent releases...

Posted by Matthew in London at September 28, 2006 6:06 AM

Thanks Sean. Thinking afterwards, I realised it was probably a gag, but it was too early in the morning for me to get it.

But why oh why (rhetorical- not directed at you) is the EP part of the rerelease? Penalising early adopters/longtime fans, of any ilk, really gets up my nose. "Thanks for tracking this down in its original format. Now if you don't mind, buy it again just so you can get the extra tracks." I presume this isn't Z.C.'s doing- artists rarely have a say in things like this. Is he even aware?

If the label were just to release a new 4-track EP, then there'd be no probs. But I guess then they couldn't shaft the buyers for as much money. And maybe, knowing the impact Beirut has had, they figured the fanbase would care enough to buy all over again.

I'm thinking, also, that this might prompt fans to simply burn the extra tracks from somewhere else, whereas if it were a separate disc they'd be more likely to part with cash. (All reminds me a bit of the YLT Season Pass nonsense.) Whole thing just leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Sorry for hijacking your site with this somewhat off-topic rant. As i said, I know it's not your fault- and thanks (again) for bringing Beirut to my attention in the first place. Really- thanks. :)

Posted by Robert P, Dublin at September 28, 2006 8:14 AM

Technical note: the new, in-browser play button does not appear in the individual entry page for entries, it's only showing up on the homepage. FYI.

Posted by Catbird at September 28, 2006 10:00 AM

And Robert:

The 4AD release of Gulag Orkestar isn't some "deluxe reissue;" it's simply the overseas edition, and those extra EP tracks in this case should be considered as "bonus tracks," asitwere. This is a very very common occurence when there's an overseas release of a U.S. album: you get extra tracks.

And as I've always understood it, that's not to be the *only* way to get those tracks, as Badabing/Chouette has been promising for some time that this EP is also to be released domestically on 12" vinyl.

Posted by Catbird at September 28, 2006 10:06 AM

Ryan - Yeah, I know. The trouble is that the player automatically appears for any .mp3 link, whether or not that link still works. And since we don't remove expired links, the compromise is just to keep the player on the main index page and not on (the 99% expired) individual entry pages). If I was any kind of javascript hacker I'd have a better solution, but...

Posted by Sean at September 28, 2006 10:20 AM

Yeah, that new Beirut song rocks. I can't wait for the Calexico/Beirut double bill. Mmmm, all the drunken horns I need.

Posted by Adam at September 28, 2006 10:24 AM

Yeah, I wouldn't have brought it up at all, but I just wanted to check, make sure you knew. It's just too bad, since people who come in to the site via their RSS reader, as well as people who come in via a link to the entry, will be taken to the durn individual entry page and not get the durn feature!

Posted by Catbird at September 28, 2006 10:35 AM

Thanks for the clarification, Catbird. I still think it stinks to high heaven, adding extra tracks to a different (whether Deluxe, 'Bonus' or Overseas- that's moot, imho) version of an album. Fumbling in a greasy till, and all that.

The fact that it might be released separately would be more of a consolation were it not to be vinyl-only. Any chance you could put in a word for a CD version? :)

(PS I think gratitude should go to you too, if memory serves, as the original location for 'Postcards...' to which StG pointed me back in March/April, no?)

Posted by Robert P, Dublin at September 28, 2006 11:29 AM

I'm pretty sure the new EP is comming out in the US on Ba Da Bing as a one sided vinyl.

Posted by Patrick at September 28, 2006 12:12 PM

Brookyln Vegan:

"Brooklyn's Beirut have signed to 4AD for an expanded re-release of The Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing), their impressive debut record of Eastern-European-inspired waltzes and folk songs. Beirut, the solo project of Zach Condon, has grown to a full band, which includes strings, horns, ukeleles and even a hype man. The re-release will coincide with Beirut's first shows in the UK, opening for the equally-cinematic Calexico this fall. The European version will also include a new EP, titled Lon Gisland[sic]. Chouette will release the EP in limited vinyl." [CMJ]


Posted by Patrick at September 28, 2006 12:14 PM

Personally, I think Said the Gramophone and Keep the Coffee Coming are the most interesting blogs to read because of such "nonsense prose". I'm much more interested in that kind of creative writing than the simple descriptions that most blogs (including my own) tend to have. And I've yet to download something from you (or KTCC) that I didn't like.

Posted by muruch at September 28, 2006 2:41 PM

I love Jose Gonzalez, so I can't wait to listen to this song. Nice post!

I also did a post a while back with a few lines about Jose and put the Heartbeats song on my site's podcast, feel free to listen: http://femmechill.blogspot.com/

Posted by Jessica at September 28, 2006 4:35 PM

Thanks so much for this! And yeah, describing your prose as nonsense is....nonsense.

Posted by The Other Sean at September 28, 2006 11:07 PM

God beirut is good. Cheers on your new streaming feature, It's definitely the way to go ;)

Posted by Dave at October 1, 2006 4:31 AM

i love the new in-browser listening capability! yay for user-friendly brilliance!

and of course, i love the music, and the beautiful prose, as always, it's heart-warming.


Posted by stephanie lee at October 2, 2006 1:07 AM

Thanks for posting this, I can't wait to see him in NYC next month! I had heard that the EP will be available separately at the upcoming US shows. I'm not sure who it was that responded to me, but it was from a message I sent to the Connor.

Posted by Sean at October 26, 2006 7:03 AM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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