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For some artists, side projects are important. When he is not drumming on stage with rock band Stereophonics, Argentinian-born Javier Weyler picks at a guitar, fiddles with his laptop in his tour bus bunk and scribbles poetic lyrics to what finally turn into charming, delicate and idiosyncratic songs.
With his sidekick Mariano Godoy and calling themselves Capitan Melao, he stood centre-stage at the Barbican, clutching a guitar and surrounded by an ad hoc stage set that resembled a student’s front room (armchairs, coffee tables and soft lighting). In such cosiness they performed the material of their debut record Lagrima.
It was a fine, understated show that gently held the audience captive with music that ranged from deranged Boleros to unconventional pop songs. It was subtle and beguiling.
Gustavo Santaolalla, the leader of the Bajofondo Tango Club, likewise enjoys a side project. But his electrotango fusion is anything but subtle. For a composer who has penned lyrical and Oscar-winning scores for Brokeback Mountain and Babel this relentless music seems an anomaly. With a name that seems like a tongue-in- cheek nod to Buena Vista Social Club, this collective of nine artists aim to take you to the bajofondo (underworld) of new tango – a tango fused with techno nightclub beats.
DJ Juan Campodonico triggered drum loops and samples that cross-fertilised with the more traditional tango ensemble of violin, bandoneón – an accordion- like instrument – and double bass, all of which were brilliantly played by masters of their instruments. The crowd went wild for it, invading the stage at the end and cheering for more with a standing ovation, but this mashed-up fusion music was a shallow sound-clash that allowed no space for any real music to breathe.
There was only one true musical moment. Santaolalla announced “Sometimes I do music for movies too” and picked up his charango – a 10-stringed guitar-like instrument. With a beautiful arrangement from violin, bass and bandoneón he plucked out the theme “De Usuahia a la Quiaca”, which appeared in the film the The Motorcycle Diaries. It was exquisite, full of dynamics and musicality that produced a spellbound hush – everything that the rest of Bajofondo’s set lacked.
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