Plaza Francia ‘A New Tango Songbook’ (Because) 4/5

plaza-franciaFrom the label that brought you Manu Chao and other boundary hopping music comes a release that is an off-shoot of Gotan Project (duo guitarist and arranger Eduardo Makaroff and Swiss-French band member Christophe H. Müller) and has their sound production all over it, albeit an altogether rootsier version. However, the icing on the cake is the participation of Catherine Ringer on lead vocals and fans of 1980s indie music will remember her as part of the ace French duo Les Rita Mitsuoko who had a Latin-inflected hit in France with ‘Baila Marcia’ in homage to the Argentinian dancer who died in 1981. Ringer’s interest in Latin music is a genuine one and she proves to be something of a revelation singing in Spanish. Compare and contrast her deep voice with that of Arielle Dombasle, an actress and wife of Bernard Henri-Levy, with the tinniest of voices and an atrocious attempt at a bolero album that bombed. Thankfully, Catherine Ringer has done her homework and had in fact already collaborated with dancer Marcia Moretto and starred in an Argentine musical prior to her joining up with Fred Chichin.
The new recording is packed with rootsy acoustic tango, left-field tango-canción and uptempo electro-tango. The latter is exemplified to perfection on the subtle beat of ‘Secreto’ with dramatic strings and a marvellous guitar breakdown solo from Makaroff and is a contender for best song alongside the stunning ‘La Misión’ which hints at Soft cell in the intro, but then develops into a laconic bandoneon-led milonga with a swing beat not dissimilar to reggae and some lovely whistling at the end. A genuinely catchy tune that could well be used surface as a single to showcase the album. In a gentler vein, the jazzy introspection of ‘Cenizas’ features terrific interplay between the band and Ringer who displays an impressive vocal range and depth and on the melancholic tango-canción sub-genre with the emphasis firmly on the lyrics. Back in the dance floor groove, the electro-dub of ‘Cada Vez’ certainly has a Gotan Project feel to it while the gradual building of tension in the number ‘La que se fue’ has something of a film soundtrack quality.

Gotan Project were in need of a return to the roots of tango and Plaza Francia is the ideal riposte and one that hopefully attract a whole new audience as well as some of the old guard of supporters. Plaza Francia will be performing as part of La Linea festival on 23 April. The festival itself runs between 21 April – 30 April.

Tim Stenhouse