Bristolatino joint editor-in-chief Rosanna West tells us why the fusion-genre Electrotango would not be the same without El Rio de la Plata’s Bajofondo.
Musical collective Bajofondo (formerly Bajofondo Tango Club) have now released three critically acclaimed albums since their groundbreaking debut ‘Bajofondo Tango Club’ in 2002. The group of composers, all with rioplatense roots and all highly talented individuals, began their musical journey as key figures in the emergence of electrotango, a genre dedicated to the fusion of Rio de la Plata’s native tango with more contemporary, globalized techno. Along with other trendsetting groups (such as Gotan Project), the collective became pioneers in the quest to bring tango back into the mainstream, yet decided to shorten their name to Bajofondo in 2008 to correspond with their evolving musical style, which has gradually branched out to incorporate genres such as drum ‘n’ bass, trip hop and house. Their long-awaited latest album, ‘Presente’, is a testament to their innovative and exciting sound, and the lead single ‘Pide Piso’, which quite literally asks for dancefloor space in its title, is not only musically accomplished but also a guaranteed floor-filler, ensuring that the album would appeal to the popular market.
The new album preserves the group’s musical roots by featuring traditional sounds from El Rio de la Plata, fusing the tango, murga and milonga styles and incorporating dramatic violin strokes and the local bandonéon (tango’s essential instrument). These elements are particularly noticeable in ‘Código de Barro’ and‘Segundos Afuera’, which both flesh out to become epic, almost classical instrumental sequences. Bajofondo combine these traditional elements with more contemporary musical techniques such as scratchy guitar, catchy sampling and glossy production to create an accomplished, sensuous sound that makes the five year wait for the latest album not only understandable, but also completely worth it. Although the band has become much more than ‘just’ an electrotango group, some of the strongest tracks on the album stay true to this style, including the aforementioned lead single. ‘Pide Piso’, which is probably the album’s most defining song. Ranging from techno to classical, tango to jazz, it is perfect hit-single material, and defies any listener not to get up and dance to its funky electro bass and biting synth, accompanied by a sublime string composition to create an intense, polished pop sound.
Although the first half of ‘Presente’ is noticeably stronger than the second, Bajofondo’s third album is very much worth a listen. Through the fusion of numerous musical genres, the group have managed to produce a stimulating record full of rich contrast, providing the listener with insight into their personal experience. For example, we are allowed to feel the pain alluded to in the lyrics of ‘Pena En Mi Corazón’ [‘Sorrow in my Heart’] thanks to the haunting vocals and continuous pulsing beat. Although there may be a few boring moments in the album, overall ‘Presente’ is a refreshing listen, and any world music fan would find satisfaction in Bajofondo’s challenging of musical labels (as well as the limitations that these can inflict).
Header photo: Bajofondo with Gustavo Santaolalla, credit lamella.pe