In an age of instant Internet gratification, it’s hard to believe that times used to be tough for pop fans. Before broadband afforded us access to a thousand blogs continually updating us in real-time with the progress of Madonna’s latest raid on the orphanages of Africa, any self-respecting music fan would actually have to leave their comfy bedrooms and attend the real world once a week for their fix of pop gossip.
The music press used to look so attractive back then. You’d eye the pages with glee, ready for them to reveal their secrets – Thurston Moore’s noise-core picks; Morrissey’s latest rant – and even though some of the trivia could be pretty droll it felt you were a little closer to your heroes as a result. All that wonder and intrigue in the days in between left you craving those juicy little facts; snippets of the lives of people so far away from your world. And pop stars used to seem bigger and more mysterious for it.
Yet here we are, two thousand and nine, the Perez Hilton generation, suckling on the Tweets of a popstar’s every move and living the digital equivalent of the old upper classes: clicking our fingers and demanding our mp3 snacks are fetched immediately by our Hype Machine and Last.fm butlers. It may be wonderful having your culture at your every beck and call but don’t your pop icons lose some of their mystery when they arrive in .rar format, freshly leaked a month ahead of their release date, rather than wrapped up in a gatefold sleeve after running to Woolworths after school?
So how do you appear as fresh and relevant in 2009 yet still convey that crucial sense of mystique? Well, if you’re Tiga you passionately embrace all the possibilities of Web 2.0 but ensure they work with, not against you. Three years after letting his killer debut, Sexor, slip out and become a word-of mouth electro classic, Tiga has returned with Ciao – and practically set pulses racing by inviting the likes of Soulwax and James Murphy along for the ride. Interestingly, he’s thrown away the rule book of deploying advance promos and seeing 15 months of hard work end up on a torrent site months before its release, instead issuing top-secret directions to the wonderful “Tiga Introduces..” podcast, where he guides the listener through each intoxicating track in his own idiosyncratic way.
Subverting the now so deliciously is classic Tiga. It’s a surprise then that none of this carefully-executed approach has slipped into his music. “I don't think there's anything about Ciao I made as a reaction [to the times],” states Tiga as he finishes a well-earned cinnamon bun after a long day of promotion in London. "You know, I kinda make the music I like at the time. But the strategies surrounding Ciao, I think how people deal with music now and how you release your music, I mean everything that goes into and around it has changed a lot.
“When Sexor came out I think the idea of free file sharing and internet promotion was all a big fringe. I mean everyone knew it was growing but it was still a little theoretical and now it's reversed. Now it's the dominant force and it has to be really factored in. And it's also quite exciting, all the promotion now, as everything about Sexor was either word of mouth or traditional distribution. I never really benefitted from Myspace or Facebook or anything, so now it's quite exciting to see how things go with those new things.”
When even pop behemoths like U2 have recently suffered their hard work leaking ahead of its release, Tiga’s stubborn strategy should be admired – weeks from its revealing and the Internet remains a strict Ciao-free zone. And all the better for it. The follow-up to Sexor is a tantalising dip into the world of Tiga. Part pulsating, glamorous electro – full of gorgeous, preening funk and glitz – and part full-on club masterpiece, it’s a ready made dance classic that will be all the better for the world to discover collectively. What’s more it perfectly conveys the fascinating two sides of Tiga – and reveals him as the perfect enigma for our times.
He is the electro wonderboy after all, the electroclash pin-up that took that genre to its peak with the success of ‘Sunglasses at Night’ and his luscious re-work of Nelly’s ‘Hot in Here’, before riding out its inevitable implosion, releasing Sexor and becoming the super-hot DJ he is today. But while the self-confessed “avid shopper” cuts an ever so dashing figure in photos and videos, he knowingly contradicts the glamour by hiding behind an unassuming baseball cap while delivering his acclaimed DJ sets. And while he swoons over “shoes, hair and gloves” on new single ‘Shoes’, he’ll Twitter with impressive football knowledge on Liverpool’s Champions League game with Real Madrid.
This mystique oozes from the album. Tracks like ‘Shoes’, ‘Luxury’ and ‘Turn the Night On’ drip with sass and passion – think Depeche Mode, Bryan Ferry and Grace Jones – while ‘Mind Dimension’, ‘Overtime’ and ‘What You Need’ go for the jugular, all wonky, electro filth and dirty bass. ‘Mind Dimension’, in particular, bears all the maximal analogue and bleeping headrush of ZZT - Tiga’s recent collaboration with Zombie Nation. In short, Ciao, like Tiga himself, is an album that’s wonderfully hard to categorise. Tiga agrees. “Yeah, I gave up!” he laughs. “I had no idea. Seriously, I don't know what category it goes in. I certainly can't think of anything else that would sit next to it.”
It also feels like a Tiga DJ set, nicely choreographed between absorbing, glamourous pop and driving club tracks. “Oh that's good. Well it's programmed a little like a DJ set. It kinda starts off strong, it peaks energy wise a bit earlier, goes a little stranger and then finishes kind of anthemia, finishes a bit more emotional. I probably can't change the way I think if even I try.”
The DJ set feel owes as much to Tiga’s excellent programming as much as his choice of collaborators. Ciao sees appearances from James Murphy, Jake Spears and Gonzales as well as long term cohorts Jesper Dahlback and Jori Hulkkonen, while much of the production was shared with Soulwax. Infact, Tiga comments he’s now spent so much time with the Dewaele brothers in Soulwax’s hometown of Ghent, he’s “almost become an honoury citizen.”
The recent excellent Soulwax film, Part of the Weekend Never Dies, comments on how, while artists like Justice, Soulwax, Tiga, Erol Alkan and LCD Soundsystem are from very different parts of the world the scene they’ve forged seems so tiny in comparison when they’re together, and as a result they’ve become such a tight bunch of friends. Tiga finds the bond that has developed between everyone exceptionally special.
“Well I think when you tour a lot as a DJ or musician or whatever you have your old friends back home, the ones you grew up with and stuff, and then you have like acquaintances, the people you bump into all the time and, if you're lucky, some of those acquaintances becomes old friends. You know, they kind of become part of your real friends. Soulwax especially, it started out us DJ-ing together and then over the years they've become some of closest friends and they're very supportive, they have a lot of good ideas and it's fun to work with them.”
Ciao concludes with the sublime ‘Love Don’t Dance Here Anymore’, an “autobiographical song of the end of the career of a disc jockey” written by Tiga and Gonzales. It’s always possible you might hear another twelve minute disco epic this year that begins with a soothing two-and-half-minute piano intro before building into such a heartfelt rush you’ll want to embrace your speakers and dance around the room with them. But it’s unlikely.
“I'm really really happy with that,” enthuses Tiga. “That's my favourite track on the album and also it's probably I think the most proud from a production angle. I think we really got it right, but it wasn't an easy thing to do. I like the idea of just a real epic and I thought it would be interesting to start in this kind of piano ballad and then it shifts gears. It turned out even better than I hoped.”
‘Love Don’t Dance Here Anymore' is so full of intoxicating grace, it’s almost as Tiga and Gonzales brought it into the world purely to soundtrack the sun-blessed crescendos of all night raves. Erol Alkan recently predicted the summer of 2009 is going to be the third Summer of Love. If he’s right, then this could be the track you hear as the joyous screams go out at sunrise, from Glastonbury to Benicassim. Say goodbye to early nights and say hello to the summer. Ciao!