Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: The Rough Guide to Tango Revival

Although chock-full of aching bandoneon melodies, wistful and anguished strings, the Rough Guide to Tango Revival is not a particularly rough-edged compilation – but it’s definitely a global one. Compiler Chris Moss is a former Buenos Aires resident and an enthusiastic fan of the classics but doesn’t have much use for (or seemingly much knowledge of) tango nuevo, therefore, no Avantango, let alone Federico Aubele. Most of the cuts here are instrumentals, three of them Astor Piazzolla covers; in addition to the Argentinians, the artists here hail from such unexpected places as Romania and Holland. Hardcore tango fans get plenty to sink their teeth into here (and dance to, with the exception of three numbers with uptight,mechanical drum machine rhythm): as a starting point for newcomers, it’s as good a place as any to start your journey into the heart of tango’s darkness, although you might first want to stream Radio Piazzolla.

Argentinians Selección Nacional De Tango (which translates roughly as “Tango Allstar Team”) bookend the album with a dynamic-laden, richly orchestrated version of the iconic 1917 composition La Comparsita (The Little Parade) and the even lusher, wilder abandon of their version of the Piazzolla classic Adios Nonino. Their countrymen Orquesta Color Tango De Roberto Alvarez also get two tracks here, Piqueteros (Protesters) surprisingly blithe in light of its subject matter, and – the aptly titled Quejumbroso (Querulous) – homage to legendary bandleader Osvaldo Pugliese – with the uneasy staccato of the bandoneon battling the lush strings behind it.

La Madrugada (Daybreak) by Orquesta Típica Fernandez Fierro, a cover of the Angel Maffia composition is delivered in raw, fiery fashion as befits an “orquestra tipica,” i.e. oldschool group. Hungarian group Quartett Escualo makes the connection between gypsy music and tango in the Piazzolla classic Fuga Y Misterio , guitar, bandoneon, piano and strings all shadowing each other, then morphing into a dreamy extended string passage. Dutch bandleader Carel Kraayenhof bravely tackles more Piazzolla – Libertango – and dexterously puts his own stamp on it, a marvelously echoey piano-and-percussion first verse (is that tap dancing?) giving way when the rest of the band comes swirling in. German combo 6 Australes contribute La Lujanera, setting a tongue-in-cheek hip-hop lyric over a noirish cabaret arrangement, its dramatic Weimar vibe evoking a Spanish-language Dresden Dolls. Argentinian ensemble La Camorra’s La Maroma is the most intense number here, a vividly noir evocation that builds menacing ambience with a somewhat explosively percussive staccato intensity And Romanian chanteuse Oana Catalina Chitu’s Zaraza benefits from vivid Balkan tinges, especially with the strings, enhancing the unease behind the warmth of her voice. The more modern stuff here (other than a woozily fun if totally out-of-place reggaeton track by Melingo) suffers from overproduction despite some clever manuevering: no matter how clever the composition, it’s no fun dancing to a drum machine if you know what a real milonga is like.

For those wanting more of a raw edge, it doesn’t get much more raw than the rustic, remastered bonus cd of legendary oldtime tanguero Carlos Gardel, old 78 RPM scratches and all. It’s just acoustic guitar and vocals, Gardel’s mannered vaudevillian delivery quite a contrast with the frequently sly humor of the lyrics.

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March 23, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Depedro at SOB’s, NYC 10/28/09

Ex-Amparanoia guitarist Jairo Zavala AKA Depedro impressed with an acoustic set that managed to hold an impatient crowd attentive for an all-too-brief half hour. Having just recorded his debut solo cd (very favorably reviewed here) with Joey Burns and John Convertino of Calexico, it would have been awfully nice to have had them onstage with him, especially since Calexico’s covered him and he’s shared a stage with them on multiple occasions. But it was not to be. To his credit, Zavala’s songs still resonate even without the album’s mansions of echo and ominous tremolo guitar arrangements. His shtick seems to be to take pretty much every style he knows and transform them into southwestern gothic; watching his solo show was more of an excursion through those particular styles rather than the dusky, otherw0rldly trip that is the album. The straight-up feel was enhanced by Zavala’s casual stage presence – he didn’t let what seemed at least early on to be a tough audience phase him a bit.

Minus all the Mexican and latinisms of the cd, Zavala’s guitar playing stood out as distinctively Spanish. He took one number deep into flamenco territory, rapping on the body of his guitar while essentially playing bass and rhythm simultaneously (he’s an excellent electric player, as well). The best song of the night was a powerful take of his Mexican liberation anthem La Memoria, galloping along with a gorgeously resounding clang. Done acoustically, the old Amparanoia song Como El Viento (Like the Wind) took on a sunny Mediterranean ballad feel; his reworking of a Mexican folk song, La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) was stark and rustic in contrast with the album’s twangy, ghostly version. His strong command of English helped carry the noir, slightly Orbison-esque ballad Don’t Leave Me Now; he closed the set with a singalong on a new one, then the lullaby that closes the album and a funky take of the bouncy number Comanche that could have been mistaken for G. Love if G. Love had soul and a feel for latin rhythm. Zavala promised a return trip here; hopefully he’ll have a crew behind him next time to flesh out those captivating songs.

Argentinian tango nuevo/pop sensation Federico Aubele was next on the bill, but at this point the show was running an hour and a half behind schedule and there were more captivating things to see, for cheaper (namely, Cliff Lee shutting down the Yankees in Game One of the World Series).

October 30, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Federico Aubele – Amatoria

Buenos Aires-born songwriter/guitarist Federico Aubele’s going for a rico suave thing here, sort of like a downtempo Gipsy Kings. At a distance this may sound like generic latin lounge music – it’s kind of formulaic, but it’s a formula that works. This cd offers layers of acoustic and electric guitars with hushed lounge lizard vocals (in Spanish) over a trip-hop beat. Aubele could use a lyricist, and there are places where the drum machine becomes completely claustrophobia-inducing (the album is just out on the well-intentioned but sonically numbing Thievery Corporation’s label). Now for some good things about the cd. Aubele is an excellent, terse guitarist: there aren’t any wasted notes here. And the songs are pretty, most of them in moody minor keys. Plus, he’s dubwise. His reggae touches typically linger and reverberate in the background, lithe guitar accents cleverly and judiciously kicking in at unexpected moments.

Suena Mi Guitarra sways and bounces, trip-hop meets tango with a jangly reggae guitar feel. Te Quiero a Ti is upbeat and evocative of Mexican groups like the Reggae Cowboys. Del Ayer layers phased backward-masked guitars in the background; there’s also a duet with the unlikely choice of Miho Hatori from Cibo Matto, who quite surprisingly acquits herself so well that she really ought to have been given a turn out front. The most bizarre cut here – tropicalia is just full of them, isn’t it? – is the samba-inflected El Sabor with its layers of artificial, bubbling synth, early 80s ELO goes to Brazil. The cd ends with an acoustic guitar instrumental that offers more than a hint of a more stark, purist sensibility lurking here. Piazzolla it’s not, but it’s something you can put on at a party and nobody will complain – in fact, you’ll probably have people asking you who this is – and it’s a good late-night sleepytime cd.

May 19, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments