The Latin-goes-electro group’s attention to detail is to be admired.
Kevin Le Gendre 2010
Although the idea of setting Latin melodies to house and dub was by no means a reinvention of the wheel marked interesting club music – Rey De Copa’s seminal 1992 floor filler Frontera Del Ensueno is a case in point – Gotan Project gave it a superb spin with their 2000 single Triptico. It was a quite head-turning creation. Against a pounding 4/4 kick drum, bandoneóns and organs alternately danced and melted into a haze of low-slung electronics before building to ecstatic riffs just as one imagined that a meeting of Lee Perry, Masters at Work and Astor Piazzolla would have done had anybody been godly enough to corral them into a fantasy studio in audio Valhalla.
Thereafter Gotan, a three-man Franco-Argentine-Swiss production team (Philippe Cohen Solal, Eduardo Makaroff, Christoph Miuller), augmented by skilled instrumentalists, cornered the market in tango for ears that had no fear of a breakbeat. But this latest offering raises big questions about their ability to move beyond that feted template, which, in fact, sounds increasingly like a formula in need of new elements.
The equation goes like this: heavy programmed drums and sub-bass, usually dredging away in minimalist phrases, plus weeping bandoneón theme embellished by stock cinematic sound effects such as a filtered voice or crowd roar, equals a moodiness that can induce what hip hop hails as head nodding. It can work. It did work. But it feels stodgily clinical here, especially when the last part of the equation sounds suspiciously like an announcement for a holiday show promo of Bueno Aires.
Still, there is something to be admired in the great attention to detail with which Gotan fashion their dubscapes, and the balance struck between dense and airy tonalities is effective. Yet the essential problem is that the constituent parts in the creative process are too often mechanically bolted together and that the programming, above all the basslines, lacks real dynamism. There was such cut and thrust in the groove of Triptico that it acted as an energising springboard to the keys. But here the beats are the concrete holding things down rather than the rubber bouncing them forward.