Back in 2002, the concept behind Argentine/French electro-tango outfit GoTan Project seemed pretty novel, and their debut album La Revancha del Tango remained on the charts for quite a while as the hype spread first throughout Europe and then to the US. But since then, traditional tango has been exhaustively "modernized" to the point that there isn’t Astor Piazzolla track without a thumpy house remix. It’s been quite the revancha.
Tango remixing may be so two years ago, but the original electrotangueros have decided to give it another stab with a second CD, but it’s nothing new. Literally. GoTan’s sophomore release, Inspiración-Espiración ("Inspiration-Exhalation"), is not a collection of new material, but rather a “DJ Set” of "new tracks, remixes & funky tangos selected and mixed by Philippe Cohen Solal," one of the band’s founding members. It features a couple original tracks by the band, but is largely composed of remixes of old tango classics and songs off La Revancha.
But whereas La Revancha can often get tiresome and—despite its occasional moments of absolute genius—fall into the category of superb background music, Inspiración-Espiración is worthy of a good attentive listen. This is primarily because there are—gasp!—other musical genres thrown into the predictable tango-electronica mix. “El Capitalismo Foráneo” gets a hip hop makeover by Antipop Consortium and High Priest, indie rockers Calexico add some Pulp Fiction-esque spaghetti western riffs to “La Del Ruso,” and legendary Argentine musician Domingo Cura highlights the oft-forgotten African influences in tango on “Percusión.” The album is intended to mirror a DJ set at a club, so Cohen Solal enlisted the help of these artists (and more) to ensure that the songs remain fresh. He then managed to tie the tracks together by incorporating the traditional GoTan sound in a unifying accordion-induced thread that is guaranteed to keep even the purist of fans at bay.
The album also features cameos by Brooklyn MC Al-Shid, remix superstar Peter Kruder, and Argentine actress-cum-diva Cecilia Roth (All About My Mother). Roth appears on the song “Confianzas,” one of the few new GoTan tracks, and perhaps one of the most powerful pieces on the album. While the music is nothing revolutionary, the lyrics and vocals are just that, as Roth delivers a shiver-inducing recital of Argentine writer Juan Gelman’s poem by the same name.
Another GoTan highlight is “La Cruz del Sur,” a track originally intended for La Revancha del Tango. It has figured prominently in the band’s energetic live shows, however, and is thus appropriately presented on a Bonus CD along with an enhanced video by Prisca Lobjoy, the resident GoTan VJ whose work is a staple at the band’s performances.
Inspiración-Espiración also boasts some very detailed, rather didactic liner notes by Cohen Solal himself that explain the motivation behind the selection of each track, and what significance each song has played in his own life and development as a musician. As a result, many see the album as a kind of historical prequel to their previous release, although Cohen Solal refers to it as “the perfect companion to La Revancha del Tango.” This reviewer would go a step further, however, and suggest that Inspiración-Espiración is in fact the perfect replacement to the band’s previous album; Cohen Solal seems to have mastered the art of tango-tinkering, incorporating just the right amount of outside musical influences, yet simultaneously evoking Argentina and the tango greats in every note.