Album Reviews

Gotan Project – Inspiracion / Espiracion

(david welsh) UK release date: 20 September 2004

Sometimes you just know that a band is going to be special without having to hear a single note. With the Gotan Project, one needs only look as far as each member’s musical background: The Project consists of two Frenchmen, Philippe Cohen Solal and Christophe Mueller, who cut their teeth composing soundtracks, and Argentinean guitarist Eduardo Makaroff. Does that not already sound almost too good to be true? Yann Tiersen meets the eternal groove of Tango, with a whole lot more besides.

But Inspiracion / Espiracion is by no means a follow up to their 2003 album La Revancha Del Tango, which, in addition to the inevitable critical acclaim, scored commercial points too. Inspiracion / Espiracion is instead a Gotan Project DJ set. “New tracks, remixes and funky tangos” reads the cover. An explanation is thankfully contained within, with set selector (and one third of Gotan Project) Philippe explaining why the album, whilst having more than its tracks come from non-Gotan artists, is the “perfect companion” to La Revancha Del Tango.

I hesitate to skip over this critical justification, because it is quite literally the bones to the music’s flesh. “We set ourselves the challenge of bringing together past influences and present aspirations for just one hour”, says Philippe, “Indeed, what difference is there between a 40’s groove, a 70’s groove and a groove for tomorrow?”. The short but enlightening passage is an essential, charting the very essence of the Gotan Project’s approach.

The first thing to notice about Inspiracion / Espiracion is its unwavering coherence in the face of a quite staggeringly eclectic collection of sounds. Old tango melodies are richly layered with Spanish guitar and obligatory accordian riffs; crescendo is used sparingly to maximum effect. The Gotan interpretation of Chet Baker‘s classic Round About Midnight is nothing short of inspired, with an end product sounding both fresh and faithful.

The first taste of entirely original Gotan material arrives with Confianzas, and it will be comfortingly familiar to their fans – consisting of a languid drum loop intro (much like their hugely popular Last Tango In Paris) that develops into a slow wave of finger picking, accordian, subtle beat breaks and the soothing vocal interjections of an uncredited female.

Four of the last six tracks are Gotan songs remixed by various others, and, like the Chet Baker treatment earlier on, they are treated with minimal distortion and maximum care. Antipop’s Consortium‘s reworking of El Capitalismo For�neo is sufficiently leftfield to slot comfortably into the tracklisting, whilst its modern rap vocals mark the album’s ambition; traversing decades in terms of style whilst never missing a beat. Indeed, no sooner has the track faded out than Anibal Troilo’s ancient and suitably scratchy-sounding Tres Y Dos tango has fought its way to prominence.

So how does it all work together so well? To paraphrase Philippe, it’s because they all groove, regardless of sound quality (which is, in fact, the only difference acknowledged throughout). From Al-Shid‘s sample-driven hip-hop to Peter Kruder‘s patchwork interpretation of Triptico, Inspiracion / Espiracion exudes quality. There is something for everyone here, and, most likely, a door into a whole spectrum of music just waiting to be discovered. If this is just a bunch of remixes, I simply cannot wait for their follow-up proper.

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More on Gotan Project
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Gotan Project @ Brixton Academy, London
Gotan Project – Lunático
Gotan Project – Inspiracion / Espiracion