Gotan Project – Lunático

Having already revived tango music with La Revancha del Tango five years earlier, Gotan Project returned with their difficult second album Lunático in 2006, first appearing exactly ten years ago this week.

It opens with a collaboration with Calexico, Amor Porteño, which is entirely nice, but it’s hard to get too excited about it, as it plods along in its curious dub-latin jazz style. Where the first album immediately appeared in your face with Queremos Paz, this one is much more subdued.

Over the first few songs, you feel as though you’re sitting in a bar in Buenos Aires – it’s all nice, but it’s background music, and there’s probably something much more interesting going on at the next table. Notas, a collaboration with Juan Carlos Cáceres, starts very promisingly but ultimately doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. Diferente, too, is entirely worthy, but just not too noteworthy.

If you hadn’t heard Gotan Project before, there’s plenty to enjoy here, but alongside La Revancha del Tango – and later Tango 3.0 as well – it really pales into insignificance. With Celos and title track Lunático we’re definitely firmly back in that bar. An old couple are performing a very slow tango in the middle of the room, as the younger people drink at tables around the edges. Or something.

So what comes next is, undeniably, a bit of a surprise. Right from the opening notes of Mi Confesión you can hear that something’s different. After a minute or so, someone called Koxmoz turns up to deliver a rap over the rhythmic tango backing track, and it’s really rather magical. All those young people who were lounging around the edges of the bar must have jumped out of their skins so they could dance, tangoing with whoever their nearest neighbour might be and simultaneously waving one arm in the air as though they’re listening to the latest hip hop hit.

You can blame the music for whatever happened there, but after that, there definitely seems to be a lot more energy in the air. Tango Canción and La Vigüela are both far above the standard of the earlier pieces – the former is slower again, but the melody and dub rhythm are much closer to the first album, and the latter is a charming, largely instrumental piece.

Other moments see the bar standing around looking a little confused – Criminal is less exciting, although lively enough that some of the more drunk patrons still find something to do. Arrabal sees them regroup again, and the last two tracks Domingo and Paris, Texas see most of the bar slowly disappearing into the night, probably finding moonlit fountains to chat under. Or something. As you can probably tell, I’ve never actually been lucky enough to travel to Argentina.

So Lunático is a bit of a mixed bag – a worthy second album, but probably not as good as the debut. But if you’re looking for something a little different and a fusion between tango, dance, and dub influences sounds interesting, this is probably worth checking out. Just be aware that you might find yourself imagining you’re in an Argentinian bar.

You can find Lunático at all major retailers, such as here.

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