Following the critical acclaim levelled at 2001’s La Revancha Del Tango LP, Gotan Project – Philippe Cohen Solal (French), Eduardo Makaroff (Argentine) and Christoph H. Muller (Swiss) – must have thought to themselves, “Great. But where do we go from here?”
Having set themselves up as tango’s contemporary custodians – with no small amount of style and panache, it must be said – the trio set themselves a dizzying, daunting standard, and inherited guardianship of a musical style altogether neglected by the mainstream music consciousness.
Gotan, of course, proved to be far more than one-trick ponies, and almost repeated the feat with 2006’s follow-up, Lunatico: almost and only almost for the fact that, as irresistible as the album proved in its own right – the Project’s subtle electro-elements turned down a notch – it lacked Revancha’s undiminished longevity, and none of its constituent tracks were quite able to capture the essence of that electrifying debut LP.
That said, Lunatico doubled the band’s studio output and more than satisfied the curiosities of keen and casual followers alike until the arrival of this, their third album proper, Tango 3.0. Has Revancha been revisited and exceeded, or is it spurious to draw parallels with a previous high watermark?
Tango 3.0, it seems, spans the narrow strip between its two predecessors, lolling languidly between the deep, timeless resonance of the brass, Spanish guitar and bandoneon of opener Tango Square and the dub-infused nuevo tango of follow-up Rayuela (which also hooks the ear with a child choir’s curiously deadpan chanting). So far, so tango.
Desilusion then exhibits that familiar Gotan tenet of melding provocative, scratchy, spoken word samples of years past with Catalan singer Cristina Vilallonga’s rich, sensual timbre. The effect is, as ever, bewitching, and one well worth revisiting, its virtues rendered absolutely inimitable by the band’s deft handling and nuanced understanding (which may explain why subsequent track Peligro goes about its business the same way. If it ain’t broke…).
It is with lead single La Gloria, however, that Tango 3.0 reaches its irresistible zenith; a deed achieved by the force of its evocative dub groove rather than a reanimation of long-established traditional numbers. Like Lunatico’s La Viguela before it, La Gloria uses tango as the paint rather than the canvass, and emerges as a glorious testament to the band’s less prominent – but no less powerful – influences.
Not that such a highlight is followed by filler: Tu Misterio trades on a delicate, sparing piano melody, deep male harmonies and a spot of whistling (not unlike an aged, mellowed Cypress Hill, strangely enough); De Hombre A Hombre – a nod to Peace Orchestra‘s El Hombre, perhaps – evokes a forgotten Latino cowboy landscape; El Mensajero further extracts and exhibits the trip-hop ingredient, quickening the pulse.
And as closing track Erase Una Vez shimmers in and out of earshot – its slow, intimate embrace forsaking all the but the purest tango influences – the lasting impression is that Gotan Project have added an another album of stark beauty to their already-impressive catalogue; an album that may, like the music movement it nurtures, endure forever.