Plaza Francia Orchestra ‘Plaza Francia Orchestra’ CD (Because Music) 4/5

If the furore around Gotan Project has subsided somewhat in recent years, the interesting off-shots have kept their name in the spotlight. This excellent exploration of modern tango in its myriad hybrid forms is a highly enjoyable trip through everyday tangorama. Christoph Müller and Eduardo Makaroff are the two individuals from Gotan Project behind the orchestra that expands upon the sound of the 2010 debut, ‘A new tango songbook’, under the then titled Plaza Francia, surfaced, but this is a marked improvement on its predecessor. The twelve concise pieces showcase sub-genres of tango you never though existed and stretches the boundaries correspondingly. This catholic approach is typified by the gentle, reposing, ‘Un lugar’ (‘A place’), with female lead vocals by the lovely voice of Cape Verdean singer Lura. Halfway through, it morphs into an electro-tango with acoustic bandoneon, backing harmonies and strings. In an uptempo vein, ‘Bárbara Mónica’, is more typical of the classic Gotan Project sound, with female lead this time from young Argentine singer, now resident in Paris, Maria Muliterno.

The album starts in atmospheric instrumental mode with acoustic guitar, double bass and vibes operating in tandem on, ‘Dedos de oro’ (‘Golden fingers’). Of the new hybrids, disco-tango is not one this writer had ever given much thought to, but, ‘La plaza Francia’, breaks new ground with a Bond-esque motif, strings à la Chic, talk over in Argentine Spanish, and an expansive piano solo. Doo-wop tango is surely in short supply, but, ‘Para so terrenal’ (‘Garden of Eden’) makes a brave attempt, with joint male and female lead vocals. Thumping drum beats characterizes electro-tango and, ‘Clase de tango’ (‘Tango class’), adds bongos, strings and wordless vocals, with the familiar guitar and bandoneon solos for which Gotan Project are now famous.

Former Les Rita Mitsuoko singer, Catherine Ringer, proves to be adept at singing in Spanish and impresses on both songs that she participates on, including, ‘Todo estaba’, with an underlying riff that, bizarrely, bears a close relation to the 1981 UK Eurovision winner by the Brotherhood of Man, ‘Save all your kisses for me’! Meanwhile, relative newcomer Maria Muliterno fits effortlessly into the lead elsewhere. The bursting with energy uptempo, ‘Te prohíbo’ (‘I forbid you’), is a winner on the dancefloor, while, ‘Tranquilo’. is a twenty-first century piece worthy of a film soundtrack, as are several numbers here, with gradual build up. The group TAXXI incidentally refers to TA-ngo of the XXI century. The beautifully illustrated inner sleeve features a cartoon scene with full lyrics in Spanish of the songs.

Tim Stenhouse