NPR logo A Young Man Simulates an Old World

A Young Man Simulates an Old World

Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)

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Friday's Pick

  • Song: "Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)"
  • Artist: Beirut
  • CD: Gulag Orkestar
  • Genre: Alternative Rock

Beirut is the brainchild of Brooklyn-based musician Zach Condon, but his sound is more Prague than Park Slope. And don't be fooled by his weary voice: Condon is only 19.

Zach Condon, 19, leads an ambitious Old World orchestra. Kristianna Smith hide caption

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Kristianna Smith

With assistance from members of A Hawk and a Hacksaw and Neutral Milk Hotel, Beirut's inventive Gulag Orkestar conjures up Old World sights and sounds: Parisian street cafes, Gypsies, silent movies, marching bands, funeral dirges. Created without guitars, Gulag Orkestar instead incorporates an orchestra full of mandolins, ukuleles, violins and glockenspiels.

"Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)" lilts and swings in waltz-time — vibrant and intoxicating. The song functions as a deeply layered soundscape, complete with nooks and crannies that reveal themselves over the course of multiple exposures. An accordion opens the hypnotic, mesmerizing proceedings, as Condon's sultry (and virtually indecipherable) crooning weaves in and out, setting a scene marked by lazy trumpets, playful chimes and unusual percussion that transports listeners to otherworldly places.

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Gulag Orkestar

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