Gotan Project have forged a distinctive trail by combining the traditional sounds of tango and classic Argentinian folk music with more modern flourishes. Although on friendly terms with the electronica crowd, their style is still very grounded in an Astor Piazzola tradition, which is then augmented in the studio with a varied palette of sounds and guest artists. Their latest release, Tango 3.0 does not deviate much from the formula established on prior albums, and finds the core trio of Philippe Cohen Solal, Eduardo Makaroff and Christoph H. Muller picking up more or less right where they left off with 2006′s Lunatico. But not right away…
The album starts off at an odd pace, with “Tango Square” offering a deceptively casual and laid-back shuffle more akin to the down-point of an after-hours set. Guest artist Dr. John contributes some Hammond organ to the track, but the part is so understated that it isn’t immediately noticeable. Positioned next to it is the out-of-place “Rayuela,” which combines a children’s choir in a sing-songy text from Argentinian author Jules Cortazar. The song completely falls flat – almost grating at times – and results in a head-scratcher of an opening couplet.
Fortunately, things quickly pick back up with “Desilusion,” which offers an enjoyable mid-tempo groove, and “Peligro,” an exquisite vocal contribution from Christina Vilallonga. First single “La Gloria” samples international football commentator Victor Hugo Morales, and works his background commentary and “Gooooaaaaal!” exclamation into a lightly hip-hop influenced track.
“Mil Millones” develops a very quiet intro into a hypnotic groove augmented by vocals and the distinctive bandoneon on lead. It’s this middle ground of tempos – harnessing a slow and seductive balance of instruments, beats and singers – that makes up the meat of Tango 3.0. When things veer too far from that, at least this time around, the album feels like it’s reaching and coming up short. Fortunately, that shortcoming happens a lot less than its successes, and the majority of tracks flow seamlessly into each other.
“De Hombre A Hombre” is the exception to that rule, where tango meets slow rockabilly to successful effect. It’s a rather lush pairing that offers an interesting twist on both styles. In contrast, “Panamericana” utilises an electro-country bass line, but here to mixed results. It’s an oddly interesting track, but feels more like an experiement for the group than a fully formed idea. Fortunately, things end strong (meaning, slow and lovely) with “Erase Una Vez,” a breezy vocal number that finds the group on enjoyably familiar ground.
On the whole, Tango 3.0 feels slower and less energetic than its predecessors. It still contains the same basic elements and style, just in a more reserved and less assured fashion. It’s still an enjoyable album from a highly skilled and original-sounding group, but those new to Gotan Project would be better served to start with their excellent debut, La Revancha del Tango, or the follow-up, Lunatico.