With a sideways lurch of an accordion sigh, it becomes immediately clear why Daniel Melingo, musician and Buenos Aires bohemian, has titled his second album Maldito Tango, ‘Accursed Tango’. This collection of prowling, lunfardo slang-inflected songs concentrates on an imagined lowlife of Buenos Aires. With a growl that is somewhere to the south of Tom Waits, Nick Cave and even Jacques Brel, the grey-grizzled Melingo paints an evocative portrait of romance at the dark end of the street.
Tango, whatever its form, is one of the most studied forms of passion. Theatricality is its lifeblood. And so it’s no surprise that Maldito Tango is a masterpiece of staging: birdsong twitters through ‘Eco il Mondo’; a double bass saws a riff through ‘Cha Digo!’; and elsewhere strange slithers of sound insert themselves into the otherwise solid base of accordion- and string-led tango. Melingo, a former rock musician and actor who came of age dodging military censorship during the early 1980s, may have arrived at tango late, but he has the artistry to put a pungent (and poignant) degree of louche back into its lurch. But despite Melingo’s nuances, Maldito Tango is not a collection of songs without antecedents. The ghosts of guitarist Edmundo Rivero and poet Enrique Cadicamo, both tango aficionados, are well in evidence; like those other tango revisitors, the Gotan Project, Melingo has his eye on the rewriting of histories.