Don’t bother starting a band that fuses Argentine tango with a whiff of French intrigue and heavy electronica beats. Gotan Project—“gotan” is the word “tango” rearranged—has done it already and done it well, as its debut CD from 2001, La Revancha del Tango, has moved more than a million units worldwide. That CD was a sublime example of groove-based instrumental music with occasional, earthy Spanish-language vocals. Its uniqueness stood out in a world suddenly awash in hip Euro chill.
Gotan’s much-anticipated follow-up still offers beats, but overall it explores more folkloric elements. The traditional tune “Criminal” and Ry Cooder’s “Paris, Texas” just cry out for remixes—in other words, the groove ain’t there like it was on Revancha. Perhaps clues about the new direction are given with the CD cover featuring race horses and the album’s title, Lunatico, the name of a race horse admired by Argentine tango legend Carlos Gardel.
There’s a lot going on, from the Tango Quartet string section, the exhilarating rap of Apolo Novax and Chili Parker from Argentinean hip-hop group Koxmoz on “Mi Confesion” and the jazz influence brought by drummer John Convertino and bassist and vibraphonist Joey Burns from the Southwestern rock band Calexico. Cristina Villalonga’s Spanish femme fatale vocals ride dreamily over the dirgelike “Amore Poteno,” and “Diferente” throws out some disco. Plus there’s the ever-present bandoneon. And what’s not to like about the happy-sounding instrument of tango?