Daniel Melingo

Maldito Tango

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In Maldito Tango Daniel Melingo continues the idiosyncratic reinvention of tango that he began a decade ago in Argentina, and that more recently allowed him to break into the world music circuit. Melingo's international career really took off in 2005, when he signed to Sergio Makaroff's label Mañana and released a compilation of his first two tango albums, which were largely unavailable outside of Argentina. Maldito Tango is thus Melingo's third proper studio album, and his first collection of original tango material geared towards the international market. Melingo fans can rest assured, Maldito Tango is a logical follow-up to his Argentine records, with no concessions whatsoever to a different kind of audience. In other words, there are no duets with recognizable pop or world music stars, no flirting with electronica, as in the trendy Gotan Project or Bajofondo. On the other hand, Melingo's friends from the Argentine rock scene (members of Los Redonditos de Ricota, Los Twist, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, or Intoxicados) are all discreetly brought on board to contribute to the outlaw attitude that Maldito Tango revels in. Indeed, rather than revamping the tango into cool 21st century chill-out music, Melingo is more interested in going back to its very roots, as a bastard cultural expression of hard life in the urban slums of the early 20th century. Melingo updates the context to this age's gritty urban realities, but the content remains pretty much the same: pimps, prostitutes, thieves, poverty, hopeless sentimental abandon...the terminal alcoholics of traditional tango are now heroine addicts, but in substance very little has changed. So much so that while Melingo mixes originals with standards, it is hard to tell apart the new compositions from those written 50 years ago. Nowhere is Melingo's aesthetic intention more apparent than in his decision to stick to lunfardo, the ghetto slang that characterizes roots tango, regardless of the fact than Spanish speakers outside those from Argentina and Uruguay will have problems understanding one of every three words (needless to say, students of the Spanish language will find Maldito tango a daunting challenge.) Wisely, a rich booklet with lyrics and notes in English, Spanish, and French is provided. Musically, this is Melingo's most ambitious and finely crafted album to date. The blending of the traditional with the unexpected, something that characterizes all aspects of Melingo's revision of the tango, works wonders in Maldito Tango, as violins, bandoneon, and guitars nonchalantly mix with saws, whistles, all sorts of percussion instruments, and a few electronic effects. Tango and milonga are of course its main ingredients, but touches of Argentine folklore rhythms -- such as the chamamé "Julepe en la Tierra" -- or even sonic experiments such as "Pequeño Paria," keep things perpetually intriguing, if not downright fascinating. Credit is due to Melingo's awesome backing band, the aptly named Los Ramones del Tango, as well as guests such Juan Carlos Cáceres and vocalist Cristóbal Repetto. The glue that holds everything together is Melingo's dark, croaky voice, which has fueled the Tom Waits or Paolo Conte comparisons in the European press -- even if Melingo's main vocal influence is ostensibly legendary tango singer Roberto Goyeneche. Listeners looking for the light, dance oriented, for-export version of the tango will be puzzled, if not shocked, by Maldito Tango. Those interested in the real deal, in tango as song, or in how the genre could be meaningful in the context of the 21st century, are highly advised not to miss this intelligent, passionate, and superbly realized album, and to keep an eye on the future adventures of Daniel Melingo.