A Cacophony of Eastern Promise
Opener 'The Gulag Orkestar' is a bohemian shuffle to the timing of shimmering tambourines, full of weary travel and exotic feelings. Pianos dance and horns move to a marching rhythm, full of the delight and mystery of the east. Zach Condon's wails ebb and flow to the sound of an accordion in, 'Prenzlauerberg', named after the region of East Berlin; the music sways with the hypnotic and imprecise tune that makes the whole album feel very spontaneous and as such, very refreshing.
'Brandenburg' describes a corresponding area of Germany's eclectic capital with chirping ukuleles and a fastpaced percussive rhythm before the arrival of the sighing orchestra. 'Postcards From Italy' sees Condon's vocals breaking free from the misty wails to create a clear tune with distinctive lyrics for the first time; it's a rather romantic lilting melody above the bright bustle of horns and the gypsy orchestra.
'Rhineland' (Heartland) is a dreamy delight with the charming refrain, "Life is alright", while 'Scenic View' brings in a rather twee electronic tune, which ripples merrily beneath the other instruments. 'The Bunker' is another charming number with various vocals floating over each other in a vivid chorus before settling into a lilting rhythm that's almost a mystic lullaby.
'Gulag Orkestar' is a strange cacophony of fractious vocals and woozy instruments, which pirouette easily over each other, while you can almost smell the spices in the air and taste the essence of Balkan cuisine lingering in your mouth long after you switch off your stereo. This is a fascinating debut that's sure to captivate; there are far worse musicians to while away an evening with than young Zach Condon.