In lunfardo, the down-and-dirty language of the cobblestone streets of Buenos Aires in the last century, words get turned inside out. The illicit hideaway where you take your lover for a tryst is not a hotel, but a telo. And the music of melancholy and forbidden passion is not tango, but gotan. So the Gotan Project, a dub experiment by French electronic artists Philippe Cohen Solal and Christophe H. Müller with Argentine guitarist and composer Eduardo Makaroff, turns tango on its head.
On the trio's first single "El Capitalismo Foráneo" ("Foreign Capitalism"), originally released in January 2000, Nini Flores's bandoneon (the little squeeze box that sounds like a sad accordion) shivers in an echo chamber atop spare vocals and an insistent electronic tambourine. The second and best-selling single, "Tríptico," rides a wood block-driven rhythm section, with the bandoneon taking a back seat to Makaroff's guitar, Gustavo Beytelmann's jazz piano, Fabirizio Fenoglietto's sticky double bass, and Line Kruse's spooky violin. "Santa María" delves even deeper into Jamaican dub, dropping Cristina Vilallonga's tragic vocals on top of a bass line worthy of Lee "Scratch" Perry's admiration.
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When these three singles first hit dance floors in Paris and London, the chillout lounge sound was still fresh enough to make the Gotan Project a thing of wonder. Now the full album washes up on U.S. shores at a time when the chillout blast has grown lukewarm. My advice: Buy the disc, then put it away for a year or two. Take it out again after the chillout din dies down. In the dark alleyways of Argentine nostalgia, gotan will always wait for you.