Having won a Latin Grammy for their 2002 album Tango Club, it is not surprising that the Argentine-Uruguayan collective Bajofondo is a band that has become identified with “electrotango,” but once you get a chance to listen to Presente, their latest album, it will be clear that their music touches many more bases. It is easy to understand the band’s co-founder Gustavo Santaolalla’s refusal to be pigeonholed so simplistically. “Bajofondo makes Bajofondo music,” he says. “What we do is neither tango nor electronica. We believe we do music of the Río de la Plata, and if you want to create a music that represents what places like Buenos Aires and Montevideo sound like, obviously genres such as tango, murga, milonga, and candombe are going to be present … But the 40-year history of Argentine and Uruguayan rock, and the 30-year plus history of hip hop and electronica in those places are also part of the map.” Add elements of jazz and some modern classical influences to the dynamic mix and you’ve got a more accurate idea of what Bajofondo music is all about.
Unlike earlier albums featuring a variety of guest artists, Presente supplements the eight-member band with 11 violins, four violas, three cellos, and three stand-up basses. The album’s 21 tracks mix big sounds, charged with excitement and more mellow sensitive themes. There is the power of a song like “A repechage,” the drama of “Codigo de barra” and the swing-like harmonic vocalese of “Oigo voces.” There are the electronic sounds of “Pide piso” and the almost Philip Glass like minimalism of “Nocturno” with its hypnotic lyricism. There are the haunting strings of “Caminante” and the whimsical beginning of “Outro,” not to mention the typical Latin folk and tango pieces still so much a central part of Bajofondo’s aesthetic.
Currently touring in support of the album, the band will be playing in Pittsburgh at the Rex Theatre on March 30. On April 2 they are in Washington, D.C. at the 9:30 Club. On April 4 they are at Cuartel De Ballaja in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the next night in Miami Beach at the North Beach Bandshell. Fans who want a taste of what they can expect can check out the “Pide piso” video.