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Beirut – The Rip Tide

Maria Turauskis

Triangle

The Rip Tide is the third full-length release from Beirut after their recent hiatus. Their last release was way back in 2007, and the group’s sound has changed somewhat since then. Where The Flying Cup Club was filled with an almost innumerate amount of instruments, from cellos, accordions, ukuleles, violins, saxophones and euphoniums, this new album has a much more stripped down feel to it, focusing instead on brass, piano and vocal parts. Whilst The Rip Tide clearly features the work of other members of the Beirut collective, the album once again feels much more focused around Beirut’s major Svengali – Zach Condon. This feels like a very personal and considered release, focused instead around Condon’s key musical and instrumental passions.

Brass instruments are still the clear focus, however, which is typical of Beirut’s work. The brass are complex, harmonious and varied, and are laid over with interesting effects to create a very enticing, dynamic approach, at times powerful, in others dreamlike. The general vibe and influences of the instrumentation is also your usual Beirut fair – there are still major influences from Balkan folk, mariachi music, and French chanson pop. These styles are sampled and proliferate throughout the album, but there are also new elements such as Irish folk. The track Payne’s Bay in particular sounds not unlike The Pogues circa Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, both in the technique of the violin parts and the tracks general melody.

The Rip Tide has a slightly more pop inspired vibe than previous releases – it is certainly more accessible and light-hearted than some of Beirut’s earlier work. This is not a pop record, but there is more of a general vibe of quiet positivity, indeed, at times the music is light-hearted and sunny even. Unlike many of Beirut’s world-folk influenced contemporaries such as Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, there is less obvious sobriety and darkness in the music on this album. Even in quieter songs, there is an only vague hint of melancholy; tracks such as Port of Call and the album’s title track are genuinely beautiful, touching and enjoyable, as opposed to being drenched in sorrow. They occur as a polite change of pace, rather than acting as a deliberate downer.

This album is short, and at 33 minutes it is Beirut’s shortest release so far. Its length is a good marker of the sedate, unobtrusive nature of this album – it is a perfectly good body of work, but it is not particularly innovative, groundbreaking or different. It is however perfectly pleasant, and at times beautiful, heart-warming and moving, and always, always an engaging listening experience.

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