The Tango Saloon The Tango Saloon

[Ipecac; 2006]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: tango, spaghetti western, jazz
Others: Astor Piazzolla, Ennio Morricone

Act One: The dusty landscape of the Old West gives way to the coming of a mysterious band of men and their wear-worn horses. Are these men criminals? Fugitives from western justice? The gazes of the unsuspecting townsfolk are coupled with gritty exclamations on the screen.

Act Two: The unknown marauders settle into the local pub. The patrons all turn from their drinks and their poker hands to gaze into the men's steely eyes. No one is giving up an inch, except for the deputy, new on the job. He prefers not to relive the tale of untimely deaths most deputies succumb to in this hellhole of the West. It's dog-eat-dog, and this new pack looks hungry. The saloon is on edge as the pianist and his lovely chanteuse (who doubles as the bar maid) try to break the cold glares with some western ragtime. The tensions slowly ease, the bartender buys the mystery men a round, and the weary patrons go back to losing their hard-earned money to each other.

Act Three: The real villains of the story rush vengefully into town looking to rob the locals of all the possessions they can carry. The townsfolk have dealt with these men many times before, but their inept sheriff is never around to put fear into these ruffians — he'd rather take a long drunk than face a herd of bullies. But on this day, the bullies have picked the wrong time to ride into town.

Act Four: The local big-mouth rushes into the saloon to warn of the impending raid. The patrons gather up their money and rush for the nearest exit, hoping to avoid the criminals about to descend on their piece of the West. The once-hated band of men at the bar look up from their beers with a twinkle in their eyes. Their gamble had paid off.

Act Five: The thugs ride onto main street, hollering and firing their guns into the air. Little do they know their fate is sealed. Out from the busted saloon walk our heroes. The thugs are stunned! The camera pans in close to capture their dismay. Before these criminals can aim their guns, they're shot down maliciously and deftly by our heroes. The town freezes in horror before exploding into delight and relief. The town is saved once and for all from these hooligans, thanks to these unknown men. Before the town can shower them with praise and booze, the men head to the hitching post, unbraid their horses, and bid farewell to another unsuspecting town. The screen descends into darkness as our heroes ride off into the sunset.

Australia's Julian Curwin has created a modern-day masterpiece under the guise of The Tango Saloon. The self-titled album explores the sounds of tango — both old and new — with a band of musical marauders. The album begins with sounds familiar to anyone acquainted with the traditional spaghetti western. From the breezy acoustical twang of "Overture" through the dusty serenade of "Libertango" and the classical beauty and suspense of "Carol," the first half of the album focuses on the traditional sounds and instruments associated with tango. But in the midst of all this acoustic bliss, the tone is slowly changing. "Man with the Bongos" transforms into a synth-driven ride through the hellish depths of tango. The song is dark and twisted, turning the early calm of The Tango Saloon into a distant memory. Tango has never sounded this fragmented and disoriented. The track devolves into a frenzied pace that resembles a country-western interpretation of Bitches Brew. Untimely horns and syncopated beats turn a lovely dance into a murderous rampage. Coupled with the carnivalesque "The Little Plane That Could," the album quickly commits a 180. While the traditional elements serve as the backbone, Curwin and his bandits have blown tango apart with a myriad of untraditional horns and keys — The Tango Saloon has transformed a beautiful soundtrack tribute into an inspired deconstruction and reconstruction of tango, pure and raw. Although the album may come across as two separate entities, The Tango Saloon would be nothing more than exceptional background music if it did not boldly delve into musical yin-yang.

1. Overture
2. Tango Saloon 1
3. Upon a Time
4. Libertango
5. March of the Big Shoe
6. Carol
7. Intermission
8. Man with the Bongos
9. The Little Plane that Could
10. Scusi
11. La Calle 92
12. Tango Saloon 2
13. Formaggio
14. Still I Cannot Do the Tango