Monday, August 25

Learning Argentine Tango: Gotan Project's "Lunático"

By virtue of its appearance on the soundtracks of several popular television series including Nip/Tuck and most especially So You Think You Can Dance and its instantly recognizable sound, Gotan Project has greater license than most to call itself the most popular Tango group active today. Which is rather a pity because they are not the Tango that first entranced me but something very different. That is not to say I dislike them, far from it in fact, but they are tango electronica. Bandoneons and beats come together on the fringe of the tango tradition I am more interested in and must be considered on a much different level than something by Piazzolla. For those who enjoy it, this album and Gotan Project's work as a whole are more likely an entrance into electronica than tango.

For my part, I enjoy Gotan Project and Lunático, its second and most recent studio album. The songs on the album encompass and effectively present a wide spectrum of moods, and their range appears in my two favorites. The slow burn of "Diferente"'s beginning flares into something forceful, an aggression restrained by the rules of the dance floor. At the other end of the spectrum lies"Paris, Texas." Downtempo, "Paris, Texas" is dominated by a meloncholic mood but a strain of resilience, one that admits of sorrow but is willing to overcome it, emerges as the song progresses. Gotan Project is not afraid either to stretch its songs in surprising directions. "Mi Confesión" features a rap and "Domingo" uses the human voice as more of an instrument than anything else.

The music on this album is particularly interesting to me in that the tone is better described as ambient than anything else. It is not so demanding of the listener's attention as Piazzolla or any classical composer in the Western canon and neither as catchy as most rock and pop tunes, perhaps because the vocals are entirely in Spanish and French, both languages I lack any level of fluency in. Though I believe the attentive audience will not be disappointed by a close listen of Lunático, it is natural and appropriate for this music to stay in the background and can very easily be appreciated from that distance. The music does not often force itself upon you. Rather, it is content to remain on the periphery of your consciousness until you finally realize you have moving to the rhythm for the past three songs.

As far as dancing the Tango goes, Gotan Project works better than many. Its emphasis on a steady rhythm makes finding and keeping the beat unnaturally easy. The electronic sounds, too, offer some excellent audio contrast to a night of dancing otherwise dominated by works from the '40's and '50's.

That all said, I also believe that the music video for "Diferente" is one of the greatest I have ever seen. Never before have I seen a mirrored screen, use of which always before screamed "novice who is way too excited by all of the special effects on Final Cut Pro" to me, put to such beautiful artistic and even thematic use.

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