The tango, and Astor Piazzolla's elaboration of the classic Argentine dance genre, have proven adaptable to new media, almost in the same way Bach's music can stand up to many treatments. It has been fused with classical music (or even more fused than it was already in Piazzolla's case); the extraordinary Argentine pianist Pablo Ziegler has created a seamless blend of tango and jazz; there are tango-rockeros. But the new "evolution" of the tango self-proclaimed by Uruguayan-Spanish bandoneón player Enrique Tellería is a bit harder to describe. This release consists of eight original compositions by Tellería along with six famous Piazzolla pieces. The bandoneón (the German concertina that is central to tango) plays a key role, and the lead bandoneón parts of Piazzolla's works are retained in modified form. But from there on out, everything is different. Tellería is accompanied by percussionist Javier Crespo, who plays a mean xylophone, and also by guitar and in one case a vocalist on various tracks. But most of what you hear he produces himself, on bandoneón or samplers. You might call it ambient tango; one of Tellería's originals, Atmosfera (track 13), even receives the unusual genre designation of "Ambiental." But the elements of electronica remain in the background to the basic melodic material of tango, which is not atomized (Atmosfera is as close as Tellería comes) in the manner of other electronic adaptations of preexisting source material. There isn't a heavy dance beat, and the pieces have the dimensions of Piazzolla's tangos, not of dance jams. The melodies, including Piazzolla's famous ones, are played straight, but the rhythm is not, and this is what will be most disconcerting for lovers of classic tango. The regularization inherent in the use of electronic devices strips the music of its romantic mood. This is especially noticeable in the music by Piazzolla (whose name is resolutely misspelled everywhere it appears), where such gloomy pieces as Adios Nonino and Oblivion take on an oddly perky quality. On the other hand, something is added as well; the electronics carry out a running commentary on the tunes. Among Tellería's originals you might sample the opening and closing versions of the same work, Evolución, in which the bandoneón part is altered little or not at all, but the backing is replaced. You might call it electronic tango-based mood music. Booklet notes by Jodi Mora, in Spanish only, refer to Tellería's aim of creating an homage to Piazzolla as well as to the diversity of elements in his take on the master's work, but reading them doesn't give the flavor of the music; it's something new and different, for better or for worse.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim