World Music Network has been putting out a number of revival compilations, a category they’ve come up with. We’ve had a klezmer revival, a gypsy revival, an afrobeat revival, and now a tango revival. What is a tango revival? The answer: Tango music performed recently. There are no old recordings on The Rough Guide to Tango Revival, yet the compiler, Chris Moss, hasn’t focused exclusively on the fusion elements that characterize a consciously modern genre like flamenco nuevo.
While the word “revival” might suggest musicians trying to breathe fresh life into a corpse, the contributors here perform like people who are continuing a tradition, not Frankensteining one. They vamp. They growl. The tango dynamic, a swanning fluidity coupled with a jerk, emerges. It strokes you from one direction and gooses you from the other. Tango Crash tries sampling the jerk in “La Yumba”, and it doesn’t work—the loop pulls the music back rather than pushing it forward.
The Roy Dubb remix of Melingo’s “Pequeño Paria” is a more successful modernization: It foregrounds the idea of depth and sweep. There is nothing from Gotan Project, an interesting omission. Moss whirls us out with the album’s most melodramatic track, Selección Nacional de Tango performing Ástor Piazzolla’s “Adiós Nonino”. It’s six minutes of violin kisses and accordion weeping that ends in a wash of cheers from a live audience, and it’s nicely played.