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Beirut - Sunday Smile

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It was during one of these evenings that he was first exposed to Balkan music (notably including the Boban Markovic Orkestar), blasting from the upstairs apartment. Condon ended up with the Serbian artists all night, going through albums country by country, note for note.

The EPs and the albums by Beirut are largely the work of Zach Condon, a young Santa Fe, New Mexico native.

Condon has recorded before: when he was fifteen and under the name of Realpeople, he made an electronic record, fashioned after his love for The Magnetic Fields. Condon was a straight-A student until he dropped out at the age of 16 to travel Europe in a drunken haze, cavorting and partying with the locals wherever he ended up.

The first album under the Beirut moniker, Gulag Orkestar (2006), was the direct result of what he learned that night. While it may sound like an entire Balkan orchestra playing modern songs as mournful ballads and upbeat marches, the album was performed and recorded almost entirely by Condon alone. He did so on Pro Tools while skipping school in Albuquerque and at Sea Side Studios in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Jeremy Barnes added percussion and some violin overlays.

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