After the remarkable efforts of Gulag Orkestar and The Flying Club Cup, Zach Condon’s offbeat hybridization of traditional Eastern European motifs and Western indie pop reached a glorious pinnacle. But where take things from there? Rather than resting on his laurels, the 23-year-old Santa Fe native packed his bags, hopped on a plane to the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, and began recording a selection of new material with local 19-piece collective the Jimenez Band. Aided by a translator to help communicate their compositional ideas, Condon and his cohorts worked tirelessly on March of the Zapotec, a slew of songs composed in the small weaver village of Teotitlan del Valle during the spring of 2008.
Now, I enjoy Beirut, having listened to and enjoyed both of their first two albums. I also think our own artistic traditions would be greatly impoverished absent some sort of cultural cross-pollination. But there’s something vaguely unsettling about a Western artist – however talented – air-dropping into some remote Mexican village, hiring a translator, and promptly appropriating the locals’ music for his own purposes. It’s not that collaboration is bad per se – I just feel that this sort of thing should take place on a more or less equal footing. Now that I’m done sounding like a dirty fair trader, here’s an excellent live version of “Scenic World” (via TAS):