Tango Gitano brings the smaller version of Roulotte to the stage and is an evolution of their previous album Reír. It feels like the expansive orchestral sound of "El Siguiente" and "Muñeca mecánica" isn't coming back anytime soon.
This time rather than do covers, they deliver a fresh batch of tangos penned by the band-leader Gaspar Pocai.
The genre is what I like to call "pub tango." Compared to the more high-brow, salon version of tango, the music lacks pretense and drops the drama in favor of slightly inebriated fun.
They released it back in February, which feels like eons ago. It sat in my Inbox in a half-processed state due to no fault of its own. The war next door is what happened, and tango suddenly felt like an inappropriate luxury at the time.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that other life priorities have also intervened. It's the end of May now, and my list of excuses has thinned, and so here comes my long-delayed look at the album.
There's a big upside to this, too. This is the first time Roulotte has published on Spotify, and I can include the tracks for you to listen along.
The music in detail
Even as the album landing page claims the music is suitable for dancing, I found this to be true for some tracks and not others.
Let's start with the dancing pieces.
The eponymous Tango Gitano sets the stage for what's to follow. Its walking beat carries you forward comfortably, and the band creates an accented, well-defined backdrop to the singer who drives most of the action. The melody oscillates between D major and minor and has a certain exotic feel.
Ella va presents itself as an uncomplicated walking piece with a pleasant melody. The tempo dips at times, but no excessive rubatos are to be found.
Y ahora que has more nostalgic vibes. The tempo is similar as are the rhythmic textures - the sharp staccatos make it easy to follow along. I like that there are no distinct rubatos in this song, which helps when deciding what goes into a tanda.
Lunfa made its first appearance in Reír. Just as there, it has multiple rubato passages, the first one shortly after the 1st minute, the other ones towards the end. The lyrical content is compelling enough to make up for it, in my view anyway, but it makes the decision-making in terms of "where in the tanda/set do I put this?" harder. 🙄
Si te da lo mismo also appeared in Reír and comes back rejuvenated, packing even more energy. The beat is faster and the mood is happy, even boisterous. There are some syncopes and other rhythmical tricks around, but nothing that should throw the leader off his tracks.
Milonga guacha is lovely, with the beat clocking comfortable 88 beats per minute and a very regular character. The signature milonga beat pattern is present at all times and neither the singer nor the instruments obscure it. The melody is catchy and inviting. What's not to like?
Gusano is one of two valses on this album, and I would argue it's the better one, at least for dancing. The tempo is at the lower end of comfortable vals BPMs, hovering just above 60. Even as it is a very lyrical tune, the underlying beat is always present and clocking away with regularity that is much needed here. I found the motive very catchy and lovable.
We now move on to the more "nuevo" side of this album.
The vals Otoño starts off on a "mysterious" note, which would leave dancers wondering what's coming up. It then develops the recognizable 3/4 rhythm but the beat is less pronounced and the overall sound is softer than what I'd like in a good vals - the "good" translating to something like "propelling me to make regular circular movements on the dance floor". Still, you totally can dance to this, and I wouldn't mind playing it at a more progressive milonga.
Noche is a slow melodic piece that has some beat and I suppose is still borderline danceable. Something about it leaves me unwilling to stand up and look for a partner, however. I suspect it's the melodic material, which I find somewhat repetitive.
Reír starts off very promising, with sharp accents and a compelling motive. What makes it questionable for dancefloor use are too many rubatos that come up later, compromising its dancing drive. There are more numerous than in Lunfa, and in my ears, the line is crossed here. I am open to changing my mind later, and for now file this under nuevo stuff.
De tero y chimango wears this as a badge of honor, no doubt, as the tempo can be interpreted as either 45 or 90 BPM, and does not suggest any tango or milonga steps to me. A very pleasant tune for listening it is, for sure.
I suppose that Del otro lado del mar could become very popular in the nuevo circles. The tempo is bearable at 56 BPM, and even though the beat pattern is not from the tango genre, I could imagine myself dancing tango steps to it. I found the melody catchy enough to get off my chair. A potential wrinkle for a DJ is its length: at nearly 6 minutes, it would take the same space as two tango songs of a more typical length.
The album closes with a remake of La Chanson de Prévert by Serge Gainsbourg. It is not included on the Spotify album, so you'll have to take my word for it.
It is a beautiful song and you probably could dance some nuevo tango steps to it. As is the case with much of the nuevo music, either you dance to every other beat, taking really slow steps, or do the double tempo that does not really fit the musical phrasing. I would rather play something that flows at the normal walking speeds.
Together with the earlier album Reír, I now have enough material to start making tandas with this new, smaller and more folksy version of Roulotte.
I love it when musicians do more than covers and come with original material, and even more so when it's danceable. I found enough material for dancing here to be very happy with my purchase.
And even some of the more nuevo pieces that I would have to plan more carefully have potential. And those I find more problematic are still great for simply listening along.
Now, if only the band has put this and all of their previous work on Bandcamp, that would be something! As a DJ you have to buy the physical CDs if you want to play Roulotte for dancers, which is a shame - the next generation of DJs won't even though what a CD is. 🤣