Album Reviews

Gotan Project – Lunático

(XL) UK release date: 10 April 2006

Ending a five-year recording gap (live DJ set album Inspiracion/Espiracion notwithstanding), the Gotan Project remain the world’s foremost proponents of tango. Having charmed the world music scene with 2001’s inimitable La Revancha Del Tango, Makaroff, Solal and Muller toured tirelessly, but now find themselves back in the spotlight – fear not, it was worth the wait.

Crucially – compared to Revancha at least – Lun�tico’s tango elements are purer; the trip-hop stylings have been toned down to a murmur as traditional Latino structures and devices come waltzing gloriously to the fore. Opener Amor Porteno betrays the fact that the entire project was recorded in Buenos Aires and completed in Paris, Catalan singer Cristina Vilallonga’s earthy tones tying the affair to vivid imagery of dusty villages, smoke-filled caf�s and scorching midday siestas.

While the groove factor is diluted, it is not forgotten entirely: Notas, featuring Juan Carlos C�ceres, doffs its cap Revancha-wards with deeply infectious percussion, piano key wandering and free accordian riffing. It’s the full-blooded orchestral arrangements that set it apart from earlier Gotan material, the Project’s penchant for sampling overtaken by an obsession with the real thing, like a reformed smoker switching from nicotine patches back to cigarettes: a guilty pleasure, yes, and an irreplaceable one at that.

Recent single Diferent checks all the Gotan boxes with ease before Celos sees them push the boat out a little further into the moonlit wharf: drums are all but silent as the piano/double bass/Spanish guitar trisector takes Vilallonga’s timbre to potent ends. Title track Lun�tico, too, signals a familiar-yet-fresh departure, and sees a tango arrangement straight from The Motorcycle Diaries taken to Paris for creme de menthes in the Latin Quarter: this is an album to obscure the bleak, unchanging scene outside your window.

The affair is as intoxicating as ever by the time La Viguela strolls into earshot; a richly layered, shining crescendo, it drags dub to the front for a tantalising few minutes in which vocoders are dusted off and thrown around with liberal abandon, the vaguely sci-fi stylings accentuated all the more by their prescriptive surroundings. Criminal takes aim at the same target, backed by an orchestra and throbbing bass, while album closer Paris, Texas eliminates all but a trace of European influence, its delicately picked progression more reminiscent of a South American cowboy’s wake than anything else.

The Gotan Project blend prescribed Latino customs and contemporary French dub with such ease and comfort that it’s hard to decipher which – if either – they prefer. La Revancha was tango’s beating heart as it lay on the scrapheap of musical use, perpetuating its pulse as long as somebody, somewhere was willing to listen; Lun�tico might just be the sultry mademoiselle to get it on its feet and dancing again. Essential stuff.

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More on Gotan Project
Gotan Project – Tango 3.0
Gotan Project @ Brixton Academy, London
Gotan Project – Lunático
Gotan Project – Inspiracion / Espiracion