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Tango Plugged In to XXI Century Buenos Aires
on 23 June 2008
For those who are not familiar with traditional Tango nor heard any of the current representatives of its electro-forms, it worth knowing that Gustavo Santaolalla's production and leadership as well as Daniel Melingo's voice in a couple of tracks, makes this album something you ought to explore immediately.
Just like it happened with Astor Piazzolla--I'm comparing reactions to new versions of a traditional musical form, not suggesting that these guys are as revolutionary nor seminal as the great Piazzolla--any innovations performed on a genre as beloved like Tango will breed as many critics as new worshippers. I think this is equal parts respect for its traditonal forms as the unwillingness of some to accept the evolution of a powerful musical form.
That said, Bajofondo--along with Gotan Project--is a band to listen to if you are thinking of immersing yourself in the archetypal Argentine music' state of affairs. This particular album, to me, has built on their first and famous album, and taking it to a new level of depth. This is not an experiment, it is good music.
Besides Melingo's vocal contributions, there's a number of powerful tracks here, whether instrumental like Cristal, Zitarrosa or Borges y Paraguay, or thanks to some dead-on choices for vocals such as Elvis Costello in Fairly Right, Juan Subira--the song of the album--in Hoy , and Mala Rodriguez and Gustavo Ceratti's turns at the mike.
Santaolalla, as committed to Tango's classic composers as he is to exploring its outer edges, manages to keep things faithful to the mood of Buenos Aires without compromising the proverbial "pushing of the envelope." Whether you find winning two Oscars a respectable feat or not, it should say something about Santaolalla's capacity to create impressive soundscapes. As far as I'm concerned, he's the Rick Rubin of Latin America, more for his talent in recognizing the true sound of an artist than a comparison of career' successes.
All in all, if you are hooked on dancing Tango, go to Anibal Troilo, Horacio Salgan or Osvaldo Pugliese--all gods of the original form--because Bajofondo will disappoint you there. But if you were stung just as deeply by Buenos Aires and like to listen to the intricate evolution of a genre, this is a place to visit.