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 LONDON MUSIC

Review

Gotan Project, The Barbican 5th May 2003

DJ - Philippe Cohen Solal
Guitar -
Eduardo Makaroff
Programmer -
Christoph H. Muller
Violin -
Line Kruse
Vocals -
Christina Vilallonga
Piano -
Arnaldo Zanelli
Bandoneon -
Serge Amico
Video -
Prisca Lobjoy

As the lights go down at the Barbican, something else illuminates the stage. The band semi-masked from the audience, blur into the darkness behind a projection screen that dwarfs the set. The familiar break-beats of Christophe Mueller begin creeping through the air, as the audience's attention is high jacked by stunning visuals projected on stage. The theme as ever with this band is of course Tango, visually and sonically. Crusaders of reinvention, the Gotan Project have brought Tango kicking and screaming into the 21st century with a suitably heavy dose of dub, hip-hop and break beats.

Fans of the band who have so far only had the pleasure of sticking La Revancha Del Tango into their CD players are being short changed. Live, the Gotan Project surpasses everything that you hear on the album with a dynamic set balancing sonics and visuals for maximum impact. Founded by Eduardo Makaroff (Guitar), Phillippe Cohen Solal (DJ), and Christophe H. Mueller (Programmer), the band started up three years ago more as an experiment than a finite ensemble. Since then their mix of Tango and dub beats has generated unprecedented interest and produced an album that is still selling at an increasing rate to an international audience. They're met at the Barbican with the kind of reception that only confirms their rapid ascent.

Initially, the band remain shielded behind the projection screen boasting Prisca Lobjoy's tango-inspired visuals. Vintage clips of dancers leap in sync with the tracks as the band move through the well-known tones of "Santa Maria" and "Triptico". Christina Vilallonga's sensual vocals bring out a Parisian café feel to the tracks, and the atmosphere continues to charge as live dancers tango across the stage.

Almost as big on build up as they are on Tango, the majority of their tracks have a tendency to kick in after a good two minutes of bandoneon jabs and programmed beats. As their signature style takes hold, the intros begin to blur making way thankfully, for hooks distinctive enough to retain a sense of definition between tracks. Once the projection screen falls away to reveal the band in the flesh, they launch into a generous chunk of their new material. Makaroff, Solal and Mueller remain a solid support whilst solos are served up by Arnaldo Zanelli (Piano), Serge Amico (Bandoneon) and Line Kruse (Violin) whose Jazz tinged lines whirl the audience into sonic bliss along with a heavy treatment of live effects.

As it becomes obvious that the night will turn into a standing ovation before it has even begun to end, the Gotan Project embark on an encore long enough to please even the most hardcore fan. Armed with more new material as well as some confirmed favourites, they receive a standing ovation from the stalls up to the rafters.

With the likes of Pink Martini, and Mariza leaping onto the market with their own distinctive sounds, the Gotan Project retain their own trademark style with a Tango for the 21st century. Perhaps one reason why they have earned themselves such a wide-ranging audience is down to the diverse influences that culminate their live sets. A mix of Tango, dub beats, VJ-ing, and dance fuse together to produce an addictive performance which leaves the audience standing, the atmosphere buzzing and the Gotan Project safe in the knowledge that Tango is still very much alive.

Helenka Bednar

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