Review | Songlines


Top of the World

Rating: ★★★★

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Album and Artist Details


La Chicana


Acqua Records


Acho Estol and Dolores Solá have spent 25 years revivifying tango and other Argentinian and international musical genres with wit, verve and intelligence. The title of their ninth album is a Japanese word used to describe a prolonged period of social isolation or withdrawal; usually the consequence of modern life, it is also an ironic reference to the pandemic. That the band use an Asian word rather than a native idiom is both very Buenos Aires and very La Chicana. The album opens with a carnivalesque waltz, ‘La Previa’, segues into a pared-down electro-milonga number, ‘Ladrillo Quiroga’, after which comes ‘Malísimo’, which splices together a blaxploitation funk vibe with pop chorus.

This restless experimenting is what Astol does; it’s never boring, but it’s not always a smooth ride. Cumbia, foxtrot, swing and Argentinian ‘folklore’ are other rhythms that pepper the 16 tracks. Solá’s tremulous voice has a 20s mic quality, most effective in ballads and talking, cabaret-style songs. Estol plays a heap of instruments, including clarinet, trombone, banjo, bandoneón and wicked keyboards; Carolina Rodríguez and Agustín Barbieri, on strings and percussion, make up the main quartet, with seven more musicians adding depth and colour. Estol is a fine songwriter but also likes to seek out musical soulmates and rearrange their work. ‘Fuego Amigo’ is a delicate cover of Sean Ono Lennon’s ‘Friendly Fire’. ‘Candombe Para el Que Hasta Ayer Reía’ was written by tango greats ‘Tata’ Cedrón and Luis Alposta. There are also songs penned by rock nacional legend Charly García, and Uruguayan candombe star Rubén Rada. This is multifaceted, rootless, virtuoso music, a reason, rather than a cure, for hikikomori.

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