A DJ's Guide Neo-Tango Recordings

by Stephen Brown

Gotan ProjectA brief guide to some neo-tango CDs for the DJ playing music for tango dancers who would enjoy dancing to something new and different.

Until the past few years, nearly all of the music played at milongas was taken from recordings made by the golden age orchestras.  In addition, many contemporary tango orchestras have filled out their repetoire with compositions from the golden era.  In the 21st century, however, we have different social venues, newer technologies, some different musical instruments, and continuing musical evolution.  All of these developments have inspired some of today's musicians to develop new approaches to tango.  At the same time, dancers are looking for new expression.

At some of the milongas in Buenos Aires, Europe and North America, the DJs have added neo-tango music to their playlists of traditional tango music.  Neo-tango consists of two genres of music: tango-fusion and "alternative" tango music.  Tango fusion integerates traditional tango rhythms and instrumentation with other musical traditions, contemporary instruments and electronica to create a modern and culturally relevant world tango music with a dance-club sound.  Some of the better-known tango-fusion artists are Gotan Project, Bajofondo Tango Club, and Carlos Libedinsky.  Alternative tango music is tango music from other traditions or non-tango music that some dancers find interesting for dancing Argentine tango steps.

To learn more about neo-tango music, read Sharna Fabiano's essay, The Rise of Neo Tango Music.

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Some Tango-Fusion Recordings

Carlos Libedinsky — Narcotango
Of the currently available tango-fusion recordings, my friend Brian Dunn of Boulder, Colorado points out that Libedinsky's Narcotango has the strongest tango sensibilities.  Afficionados of tango fusion are likely to find all the tracks on Narcotango to be suitable for social dancing, but "Vi Luz y Subi" and "Otra Luna" are beautiful and have the strongest tango sound.  "Plano Sequenco" and "Trancetango" also work fairly well, but the underlying tango sound is a little farther down in the mix.

Gotan Project — La Revancha del Tango
This ensemble integrates Argentine tango with a Parisian house-music sensibility to create a sound that was fresh if played sufficiently sparingly.  Once regarded as containing the best tango-fusion music available, the CD was played frequently at many milongas, and some dancers have grown tired of it.  Less traditionally minded dancers regard all the tracks to be suitable for dancing, but "Queremos Paz," "Una Musica Brutal" and "Epoca" stand out as the best.

Gotan Project Remixed
The remix may be the answer for those who have grown tired of the original Gotan Project release.  For this project, some of the tracks from previous album were radically remixed and some new remixes have been added.  The new tracks have been repackaged with La Revancha del Tango as a 'bonus' disk.

Gotan Project — Inspiracion-Expiracion
A disappointment after such a long wait for a new CD from Gotan Project, Inspiracion-Expiracion is no more than a dj remix that uses previously released Gotan Project tracks and tracks by non-tango artists.  Not much is of interest for tango dancing.

Gotan Project — Lunatico
A new effort that succeeds better than Inspiracion-Expiracion, but the sound is no longer as revolutionary as when the first Gotan Project CD was released.

Bajofondo Tango Club
This Argentine/Uruguayan ensemble plays dance-club music with some tango rhythm.  The combination does more to freshen the dance club sound than it does to freshen tango.  Less traditionally minded dancers consider all of the tracks suitable for dancing Argentine tango, but "En Mi/Soloedad" stands out as the having the strongest tango sound.  "Naranjo en Flor" also works fairly well as a slow milonga, but I prefer the remixed version found on the Leçons de Tango CD.  On the other pieces, many dancers might find that the dance-club layers are too strong.

Bajofondo Tango Club — Supervielle
With their second release, Bajofondo creates a more sophisticated downtempo/lounge sound.  A few tracks are remixes of the old with completely new elements including hip hop and milonga.  "Perfume," "Pulso," "Air Concret" and "Centroja" are among my favorite tracks for tango dancing.  On his now defunct Tangonauts webpage, Santiago Steele recommended "Decollage," "Perfume (Remix)," "Leonel," "El Feo" and "Tangodrome" as the best tracks.  Combined, the two lists suggest a disc with a lot of good material.

Electrocutango — Felino
Norwegian composer Sverre Indris Joner has assembled a collection of original electronic music and has remixes some old tango.  For dancing, the most interesting track is "Felino."

Carla Pugliese — Ojos Verdes Cerrados
Osvaldo Pugliese's granddaughter leads a tango orchestra that adds a layer of keyboard electronica.  Some find the overall effect more tango than tango-fusion.  The standout track is Ostinato.

Otros Aires — Otros Aires
Some original compositions and classic tangos and milongas that have been layered with non-traditional elements and electronica.  Many of the tracks work well, but sound very much like each other.  Milonga Sentimental is the stand out track.

Tanghetto — Emigrante
Emmigrante adds a nocturnal jazz/lounge element to the club-tango sound of Bajofondo.  The tracks all sound similar and only a few work well for tango dancing.  "Una Llamada" and "Inmigrante" are strong enough to make the CD essential for most DJs or anyone else building a collection of tango-fusion music.

Hybrid Tango — Hybrid Tango
Hybrid Tango mixes bandoneon, piano and spanish guitar with a driving electronic beat to create a sound similar to Tangoghetto and Bajofondo.  The best track is "Más De Lo Mismo."

Leçons de Tango by Aubade
This CD, issued by the French lingerie company Aubade,  is collection of tango-fusion tracks from Astor Piazzolla Remixed, new remixes of tracks from Bajofondo Tango Club and unadorned tangos by performers such as El Arranque, Roberto Goyeneche and Astor Piazzolla.  Of particular interest are "El Tango" and "Naranjo en Flor."

Tango Project (Jaime Wilensky) — Volume II New Tango
Wilensky combines electronica with tango to create music that covers the ground from tango to lounge to elevator music.  On this release, my favorite tracks are "Sentimientos" and "Buddy."  Some of the tracks have been released on other Wilensky CDs.

Astor Piazzolla Remixed
Inspired by the success of the Gotan Project, the tracks on this CD overdub club-style electronica on original tracks of Piazzolla's fusion of tango, jazz and classical music.  Although interesting conceptually, the result isn't inspiring for tango dancing — perhaps because the music lacks strong tango dance rhythms.  As is the case for much of Piazzolla's recordings, the underlying tango music lacks strong dance rhythms, and the layer of electronica doesn't add tango rhythms.  "El Tango" and "Luna" work the best.

Electronic Tango
The music on this CD is a departure from dance-club sensibilities of Gotan Project and Bajofondo toward the avant garde electronica of groups like Amon Tobin and Aphex Twin.  The music on the CD is quite difficult for dancing, but it is tango with a new sound.  The most interesting tracks are "Torpedo" by Appart, "Tango" by Ruben Steiner and "Libertango" by Zumo Real.

Astornautas — Ultratango
Not much stands out on this electronica meets Piazzolla CD.  I like "CiteTango," and it seems to work well at milongas.

Juan Carlos Caceres — Toca Tango
Juan Carlos Caceres has a wonderful, deep singing voice and plays piano with jazz voicings and a perfect rhythmic touch.  He is recorded here with a decidedly non-traditional ensemble, but little of the electronica that is found on most tango-fusion recordings.  The result is tango and candombes that have overtones of cabaret, jazz, dance club and theatrical music.  The tangos are decidedly slow, but a few of them may be the perfect change of pace late at night.  Two of the candombes—"Tango Negro" and "Toca Tango"—are absolutely stunning.

Moulin Rouge (Soundtrack)
The movie spectacular Moulin Rouge contains one tango, "El Tango de Roxanne" which some dancers may find fun for dancing on occasion.  Recorded for the movie, this tango combines the rock classic "Roxanne" with a tango written by Mariano Mores.

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Other Resources

Also see Sharna Fabiano's DJ List of Neo Tangos, Veronika's La Potranca, Homer and Cristina Ladas' Tango DJ Resource Page, and Project Tango DJ Resources.  The first two websites list tango-fusion, electrotango and "alternative" tango tracks.  The last two present ideas for bridging the gap between traditional and alternative forms of tango deejaying

Listen to NeoTango online at Radio Buenos Aires.  Radio Buenos Aires can be accessed by through Live365.  Enter tango in the search and then scroll down to Radio Buenos Aires.

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