Alas de Tango has come on my radar thanks to my Bandcamp feed, and I very much appreciate their mission statement (quoting verbatim):
Alas de Tango is a milonga orchestra. Our musicians also enjoy dance and they want every night at the milonga to be a party. That’s why we make arrangements for the classics we love and pick out some new
They have so far released four singles and, most recently, a tanda mini-album. Let's have a listen!
The music in detail
Blues del sur is a bilingual vals featuring two singers, Cucuza Castiello singing in Spanish and Brian Chambouleyron singing in French. Not sure if it's an original tune or a cover of a pop-song but the arrangement is unmistakably a tango vals. It could run a little faster to be even more comfortable to dance but its good mood will likely win you over as it did me.
In Je te dirai, Brian Chambouleyron makes a solo appearance with the orquesta and sings in French again. While looking for the possible origins of this tune, I found this recording by Gardel. Given that the singer did record an album in tribute to Gardel, this might not be a coincidence but I'll admit to having trouble finding a common theme between the two. Nevertheless, it is again a very pleasant tango vals flowing at the regular walking tempo.
My favorite single is the milonga Ella se fue, sung by Dolores Solá and Noelia Moncada. Attributed to the living Argentinian composer Alfredo "Tape" Rubin, it's an embodiment of an ideal milonga: swift but not terrifyingly fast, with a stable underlying beat, and smile-inducing.
The instrumental Truco Gallo sounds like a new composition. To me it sounds somewhat intellectual, or maybe the melody just didn't resonate with me. However, it certainly is a solid walking piece with a regular, sharp beat.
Finally, the "tanda album" Primera tanda, which came out just a week or two ago. It contains a shorter version of Truco Gallo and three classics: Café Dominguez, 9 de julio, and Quejas de bandoneón.
Judged on their own merit, the three covers are fine. The problem is the competition: these songs have not one but several canonical representations from the Golden age to the present, and so if you need a tanda with Café Dominguez, for example, you have a plethora of choice. I am afraid that Alas de Tango are too timid, too respectful in their interpretation - nothing stands out in terms of the arrangement, the energy, nor the dancing drive.
Then again, context is everything: if the band played this tanda live, as they surely do in Argentina, I am convinced the dancers would be pleased. And that's not to be taken for granted!
Overall, I am pleased to have learned about Alas de Tango and am looking forward to their future releases. We need bands that put dancers first, and these guys surely do.