MAR DULCE Bajofondo, Argentina-Uruguay
My latest review of Nortec reminded me that I really needed to talk about one of the year’s most accomplished albums, one that also creates its own sound: electronic tango band Bajofondo (dropped the Tango Club off their name). Gustavo Santaolalla, Juan Campodonico and company arrive with their second official studio album, after the grandiose self-titled debut album. This time they come with an even bigger clash of sounds that evoke their unique sound, and yes some first-class collaborations from international vocalists.
The album starts with the energetic Grand Guignal, an emotively catchy song that maintains Bajofondo’s ability to experiment Tango and electro music but keeping the elegancy of Tango itself breathing. Continues with the melancholic Cristal, which to me sounds just like a song by the also electrotango Gotan Project. Ya no duele starts the impressive caravan of guests with an almost narrative voice of Santullo. Hoy is the album’s most traditional track, features the raspy vocal chords of Juan Subira. And just when we begin to think the album feels too safe, comes Pa’ bailar, the first single that really gives justice to the whole project. Pa bailar gives the album its direction, the singular four minute proposal of Bajafondo as an investigational band.
Elvis Costello makes a visit with the surprisingly dull Fairly Right, the weakest and less inspired track on the album. Slippery Sidewalks featuring Nelly Furtado is an improvement, but still very stiff and safe. Things get better right away with El Mareo; the one song that wants to be pop, but Gustavo Cerati’s miraculous performance holds its alternative essence. There is plenty of room for innovative; El Anden featuring La Mala Rodriguez is a truly uncompromised song which features bajafondo’s sound + hip hop (something also accomplished in Calle 13’s Tango del pecado). The third and concluding part of the album will please the purists and conservative followers.
One of the most surprising aspects of the album is that even though it has multiple collaborations it never looses its instrumental focus. There are some disappointed fans though, can’t seem to accept Mar Dulce’s vocal curiosity and especially the mainstream artists featured in it. I find the album to be a rather seductive glimpse and a necessary ingredient. Proof of this is perhaps how they managed to improve Pa’ Bailar on a new version not featured in the album, now featuring Julieta Venegas, quickly becoming a hit on internet radio. A recently released EP features six different versions of the first single, with a must-have version by los Maestros.
The album does not lack ambition whatsoever, time will tell us exactly how transcendental Mar Dulce truly is, and it sure feels like a classic. Revolutionary virtuosos from two countries that share the passion of Tango.
Numeric Rating: 91/100
Key tracks: Pa' Bailar, El Mareo (feat. Cerati), Grand Guignol