While bands such as the Gotan Project have successfully paired the two, their approach has tended toward the instrumental. Federico Aubele, a singer-songwriter born in Buenos Aires, attempts to unite the two in a more restrained way with vocals, under the auspices of the Thievery Corporation‘s Eighteenth Street Lounge label.
He doesn’t stop at tango, either – as the album progresses it turns out the style is just the tip of the iceberg, as Aubele is conversant in much else besides. Amatoria, his third album, peddles sidelines in dub, reggae and a style of electronic soul that equates with a more straightforward singer-songwriter language.
Aubele’s strength is his ability to get intimate with the listener through his vocals, and this means the most successful songs on Amatoria are those with the least complicated backing. A good example is Hermosa, the singer sat up close to the mic with a subtle guitar and hint of electronics. The effect is of a small club, the audience up close and personal, and with a hint of smoke drifting across the picture.
When the textures become more electronic, the approach suffers. In the chunky beats of Siempre Nuevo the electronics get in the way, obstructing the intricate guitar work and compromising the intimate mood. Luna y Sol is more successful, its flirtations with dub giving the bass more room.
Three subtly scored duets add some spice as the album progresses, and Aubele’s vocals work well in tandem with each – Natalia Clavier on Este Amor, Sabina Sciubba of the Brazilian Girls on Otra Vez and Miho Hatori of Cibo Matto on Riendo Asi. Each track shows how sensitive Aubele’s singing can be in a double vocal context, as he responds well to the challenge.
A qualified success, then, with the attempt to marry Argentinian and Western styles more effective when the beats and electronic dressings are kept to a minimum and applied as subtly as possible. Any fans of the Thievery Corporation, effectively Aubele’s bosses, will be interested to try it out but will note a lack of the group’s more glamorous approach.
Given Aubele’s sensitive vocals and careful guitar work, though, it could well be a case of less being more in the future.