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World Music CD Reviews North American

Alaska In Winter

By James Rodgers
Published June 13, 2008

Dance Party In The Balkans

This outfit consists primarily of musician and art student Brandon Bethancourt, but he’s supported by a few friends—including, most famously, Beirut’s Zach Condon, who sings and plays ukulele on one song and trumpet on four more. According to Bethancourt, the music sprang from a semester he spent in a cabin in Alaska, and is influenced by his growing up in the low-rider culture of the southwestern U.S. as well as a five-week trip to Eastern Europe. He calls the album Dance Party In The Balkans, so you might expect an upbeat, rollicking club mix of world-tinged hip-hop and dance music, but as the band name suggests, the sound is cold electronica—more attuned to a chillout after-party than the party itself. While much of the instrumentation is recorded live, it all sounds synthesized clean, right down to the vocoder-filtered vocals that make much of the lyrics unintelligible. There’s plenty of stretching out and relaxing, but no dancing going on here.