Breakthrough sometimes breaks through – Why I still love Gotan Project
OK!OK! I know its colonizing-yuppie and oh-so Buddah-bar, but one of my weaknesses is my love for Gotan Project. I have a ‘soft spot’ for lounge music anyway, I’m a hard-core Francophile (left-bank-o-phile really) and Gotan does force me to reach for the red wine and wooden cheese board, but I can’t help it. The sounds are so rich and just so very very easy. In that harried hour of the segue between accounting and writing, sometimes its Gotan that gets me through. It eases me out of “train / traffic-what-will-we-have-for-dinner” mode into “art-de-jour” and even holds me through my “why-do-I-listen-to-this-crap?” evolution. All within an hour usually.
Gotan Project formed in 1999. Their first release was “Vuelvo Al Sur/El Capitalismo Foráneo” in 2000, followed by the album La Revancha del Tango in 2001. Their music involves tango, but also uses elements such as samples, beats, and breaks.
I mean – it was pretty amazing at the time. I thought it was a little more than cruizy feel good.
Live material was also broadcast on Gilles Peterson‘s world music show Worldwide on BBC Radio 1 in May 2004. Philippe Cohen Solal has also released a DJ set: Inspiración Espiración – A Gotan Project DJ Set Selected & Mixed by Philippe Cohen Solal (2004). This album is a compilation of classic tangos from the likes of Aníbal Troilo, Ástor Piazzolla and Gotan Project remixes. The album also includes a bonus CD with the track “La Cruz del Sur” – which was meant to be included on La Revancha del Tango, but did not make the cut in 2001.
My first Gotan album was Lunatico – as usual I was late to the party. I adore this album. For me it is their best – them at their best. Take a listen to the below – and excuse that DAM cheezy ad first.
Back then, the sound was fresh and you didn’t hear it in every elevator. It did have a break through feel to it, despite its cleanliness. It still had that distinctive sound of the Gotan Project that (has now) made them so famous, but it was expanded here to an ambition Gotan hadn’t seen before. They were more liberal with the electronics and beguiling instrumentation that now included bandoneon and strings. Guests include Calexico and vocalist Christina Villalonga (who join forces on the striking opener “Amore Porteno” that I have above for you), rapper Xoxmo, and musical director Gustavo Beytelmann, among others. Lunatico finds the Gotan Project immersing itself more deeply in the tango, while still trafficking in trip-hop, downtempo, and ambient textures, creating a fine example of fresh, world music fusion.
Then there was that delicious irony in the mock cabaret sound. Check this out – excuse the ad again.
Suddenly we’ve got 1970’s disco beats and a Bad Seeds cabaret style joking. Spacey Piano and steel guitar. even though the album has a lighter feel, the rich string arrangements give it a more tightly managed acoustic sound and they add depth and emotion that wasn’t necessarily there from the start. The competitive tango danced between the machines and the musical instruments is as wonderful as the real thing.
I often say in these writings that music has to stand the test of time, not be seen in context, but in the case of Gotan, the irony may have slipped a little. I think they are used these days as an accompaniment to the very dinner parties and bourgeois soirées they so subtly mocked in this great album. In this case, context is everything. They’ve been colonized (I guess just like the Bad Seeds) by the very group they intended to bounce against.
I’m just glad I bought it when I did and I’m glad I have it to chill in the home-space.