With “Tango 3.0,” France’s Gotan Project brings their music back to Nuevo Tango. Combining downtempo and ambient dub with more traditional tango instrumentation, the album blends together the approaches of 2001’s “La Revancha del Tango” and 2006’s “Lunático.” Members Philippe Cohen Solal, Eduardo Makaroff and Christoph H. Müller balance the Argentinean ballroom music with electronica, creating a sound to which you can dance (if you know how to tango) or chill out.
“Tango 3.0” features more strings than previous albums, adding harmonica, clarinet and horns to the mix. Varying from measured to frenetic, the individual song pacing keeps listeners engaged. The opener, “Tango Square” is a slow, contemplative piece. Bandoneon, an accordion-like instrument, weaves jazzily around the steady beat of drums and upright bass while gloomy horns sound at intervals. The vocals, on the songs that have them, are incomprehensible (unless you know Spanish). Whether you understand the lyrics or not, they radiate sensuality. The exception is “Tu Misterio.” That guest singer sounds like a Hispanic Tom Waits.
Even though the continual wailing of the bandoneon can make the album seem repetitive, “Tango 3.0” draws from several different sources and sounds to engage the listener. “La Gloria,” the first single, not only incorporates upright bass, synth and bandoneon, but it also uses color commentary of a Diego Maradonna “goooooaaaaallllll” as voiceover. On “Rayuela,” writer Julio Cortázar reads excerpts from his novel of the same title. A children’s choir shares the vocal’s space. The most unique song on the album is “De Hombre a Hombre.” It uses spaghetti western guitar, film noir piano, jazz percussion and of course bandoneon. Crossing genre borders, however, does not always lead to beautiful music. “Erase Una Vez” sounds like a Spanish love song placed over an indie rock ballad and the drums from an R&B slow jam. It’s also the most lackluster track on the album.
Gotan Project, with their new release, build on the successful model they have already established. They stay true to their tango roots but combine various other genres and styles to offer something new. “Tango 3.0” ultimately lacks the quality of “La Revancha del Tango” or “Lunático.” But it would still be an excellent addition to any lounge music collection.
Featured in many commercials and films, Gotan Project serves as great background music. It’s the kind of music you want to hear in a bar or lounge. If they played it in elevators, you would push all the buttons so you could listen longer.