Music

Gotan Project: Lunático

If only updating an established style could always be as successful as this.


Gotan Project

Lunático

Contributors: Calexico, Koxmoz, Juan Carlos Caceres, Jimi Santos
Label: XL
US Release Date: 2006-04-11
UK Release Date: 2006-04-10
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Good for Gotan Project. This is the right time for tango music to be unleashed upon the world in all its forms, particularly a form in which electronic backbeats reign supreme. This is a time when Dancing With the Stars can command American audiences of 30 million, most of whom wouldn't be able to tell the tango from the cha cha except that the former is usually "sexier" -- a time when a band can test the curiosity of an inordinately large target audience without the constraint of necessary authenticity.

As its name would imply, Gotan Project takes tango music and flips it on its ear by introducing contemporary and electronic instrumentation into the mix, but they don't do this in the near-disrespectful way that such a description might imply. A typical electronic DJ looking to dabble in tango music might just sample some already existing tango music and put a four-on-the-floor beat on top of it, or create an entirely electronic composition and add some of the instruments common to tango -- guitars, violins, or even the bandoneón (a variation on the accordion) might sound nice on top of a techno beat, right? The three Parisian producers behind Gotan Project are far more respectful than this -- they are out to create true tango, going so far as to record in Buenos Aires with actual tango musicians (as well as a few contemporary non-tango cohorts), ultimately creating the closest approximation to true tango through the filter of 21st century pop-electronic production that can be found on the market today.

Lunático is Gotan Project's second proper album, and it manages this melding of styles even more gracefully than Gotan Project's first album La Revancha del Tango. Part of the reason for this album's closeness to the true tango sound might just be that Gotan Project is less bound to "electronics" than it ever has been. Opening track "Amor Porteño" features the ever-interesting Calexico, providing slide guitars and spooky ambiance to a slow-burn of a track that runs entirely counter to the perception that tango music is only for dancing. The drums are organic, the bandoneón is the predominant melodic instrument, and the singing is sultry and utterly exquisite. It's a curveball of an opener, an exhortation from Gotan Project to leave our expectations at the door. Celos is a similarly-paced track, with more beautiful vocals to boot, and album closer "Paris, Texas" follows a fantastic bandoneón melody nearly from start to finish, until a solo piano quietly, sublimely ends the album. Each of the slower tracks on Lunático is a wonder to listen to and absorb.

Still, dancing is clearly the focus, as it probably should be. "Diferente" is a fantastic track that follows a one-note bassline through more atmosphere than most so-called "ambient" artists can muster for an entire album -- all while following a brilliantly syncopated, highly danceable beat. "Notas" features the speaking of Tango master Juan Carlos Caceres over an arpeggiated bassline and a distinctively ordinary electronic beat, while "Criminal" actually manages to formulate a dance song with almost no percussion at all -- the "beat" is created via an octave-jumping bassline and a jumpy melody from that ever-present bandoneón. The dance tracks are collectively less distinctive than the slower, more calculated pieces, but still well enough constructed to stay interesting throughout for the sake of dancing or listening.

Lunático's most inspired moment, however, comes in its most audacious move, the pairing of tango with hip-hop. "Mi Confesión" features the hip-hop stylings of Koxmoz, a collective straight outta Buenos Aires. It's just as edgy, dance-worthy, and utterly enjoyable as its creators could have hoped, and it doesn't even matter if you don't know what they're saying when their flow is this tight.

Gotan Project certainly isn't the first group to attempt the update of a style steeped in tradition using electronic methodology. What sets them apart, however, is their obvious reverence for the style that they happen to be updating. They pull a trick of the ear in putting together a sound that could easily be mistaken for typical electronic dance music, even as they incorporate all of the elements of more traditional tango. The result is a surprisingly "authentic" tango album that Joe and Jane Dancing-With-the-Stars-Fan might actually be able to enjoy, rather than merely appreciate.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.