Glasvegas – Bristol Trinity Centre, 13/09/08

Glasvegas

Glasvegas

Sitting quiet and graceful amongst a sea of concrete towers and sex shops, Bristol’s Trinity Centre is an appropriate venue for Glasvegas. The spectacular lighting reveals the enigmatic gothic church as a beacon of grace and hope against the encroaching darkness that surrounds it. An apt location then for a band that explores the glory and emotion of a world drenched in broken homes, crime and violence.

Apt as well for the religious fervour that has swept Glasvegas here. Less than a week old, their startling, eponymously-titled debut has already shifted over 50,000 copies, contradicting any doubts that this is a band built on hype and no soul. True, the hype burns so bright it threatens to pierce the Wayfarers that James Allan refuses to take off – coolly ignoring any health and safety implications on the darkened stage. But it’s their conviction that burns brightest of all; an addictive sense of purpose that eloquently pairs Allan’s compelling lyrical reportage of dislocated urban living – cynical racist murders, estranged fathers, tooled-up gangs – with an incendiary sense of the Clash’s bombastic urgency crashing through Phil Spector’s wall of sound.

It’s this mix of swagger and desire that runs through everything that Glasvegas do. From the spiralling, white noise that heralds first song ‘Flowers and Football Tops’, through the playground battles and infectious howl of ‘Go Square Go’, to ‘Geraldine’, Allan’s hymn of the true passion of a social worker.

It’s evident in their composure. Rab Allan and Paul Donoghue, bassist and guitarist respectively, tear at their instruments while behind them Caroline McKay, strikingly standing behind her kit, looks intent on destroying the few drums she has. In the centre of all this Allan’s strong-as-an-ox pose remains reassuringly consistent: guitar low, head high, like a ley preacher brought up on Strummer and Brando. Only when the pace of the delivery eases and he’s freed from the microphone does he move slightly, arching his back towards the stage, raising his darkened eyes to the ceiling, as if looking towards the heavens for some answers to the riddles that occupy him.

The pose is refreshingly iconic and therein lies the paradox. For a band that is so fresh-off-the-blocks they’d have Usain Bolt looking over his shoulder, Glasvegas display an attitude that is wise beyond their years. It’s like the girl groups and Jesus and Mary Chain are not just influences but ghosts stirring within them. This is a band that sound so old and lived-in yet stun you with how new and invigorating they are.

It’s an interesting fact that the finest of artists can be confounding, riddled with contradictions and questions, never easy to dissect or to explain. Against the Van Gogh-inspired artwork of their debut, seemingly etched into the back wall, the silhouettes of these three men and one woman in black manage to shimmer with both the leanings of the past and the expectations of the future. Tonight, any passers by might just have noticed the Trinity’s beacon burning a little more brightly than usual.

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The 12 Days of Swn-fest: Part 4 – Son Capson, Marina & the Diamonds, Martin Carr, Science Bastard

Marina and the DiamondsLike a marching band of gurning elves bulldozing the entire contents of an Aberystwyth drugstore down their gobs before throwing up a mix of early Gorky’s and Tom Waits’ garage.

Have you heard Magical Trevor? He’s the deliciously annoying viral cartoon that was mutated into an advert for 118-247 earlier this year. Son Capson appear to be his magical Welsh cousin, nestling in the Cambrian Mountains and gouging on Tom Waits’ Swordfish Trombones and Hungarian coming-of-age ceremonies. He conjures past images of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynchi donning wizard outfits and singing about Peanut Dispensers while sounding like Eugene Hutz’s marvellous moustache. He’s got a song about a Sniper on the Roof of Tesco. He’s pretty awesome.

Nicely side-stepping the 80s-girl revival that has seen Pip, Boots and Roux parcelled-up into one comfortably-marketed package for journalists’ pigeon holes, Marina and the Diamonds’ eclectic hymns draw more on the new wave vibrancy of Lena Lovich and Kate Bush. Marina herself puts her roots down to Brody Dalle, Britney, Dolly Parton and a birthplace in “ancient Greece” via Wales. The Joni Mitchell-flavoured “I’m Not a Robot” and aching, lifting “Obsessions” show a rich songwriting and storytelling ability that should soon have ‘Marina and the Diamonds’ roll off the tongue with the same eminence as Bat for Lashes.

Martin Carr‘s biog should read like the A-Team’s: ‘he gave up the charts and a life in pop for the rich-storytelling of life in the Welsh capital’. Ah, so naive! He should have known that his beautiful craftmanship would be constantly called on and his six Brave Captain albums have tied together the enduring sense of pop that he carved out with the Boo Radleys’s with some captivating lo-fi country and psych. New album ‘Ye Gods (And Little Fishes)‘ is the first he has released under his own name and is his most engaging solo outing yet; warm, brooding laments and that stay with you as the last few notes fizzle out.

Grabbing their name from a low-budget flick film that has been described as “pure heroin for pop-culture junkies” seems an appropriate choice for Science Bastard; they have that wreck-all-the-instruments-then-piece-them-back-together-and-throw-some-pop-bubbles-on-the-mess approach – all fuzzy, amphetamine drumming, short-sharp-shock guitars and gurning vocals . Wonderfully, they have no attention span either – throwing delicious hooks about with abandon they sound like a scratch running after an itch.

Son Capson, Marina and the Diamonds, Martin Carr and Science Bastard play Chapter Arts Centre on 22 October as part of the BBC Wales Adam Walton and BBC Radio 1 Introducing in Wales with Bethan Elfyn evening.

Also appearing are: Post War YearsRace HorsesBright Light Bright Light and Zimmermans. The show will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio 1 Introducing In Wales with Bethan Elfyn

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Camille – ‘Music Hole’ (EMI)

Camille - Music Hole

Camille - Music Hole

May 2008, Pop Matters 7/10

With music ever splintering into a thousand new genres a minute, all advocating their unique and challenging innovation, maybe the most challenging and experimental is a genre older than music itself, that of the simple human voice. For if you can lay structure, texture and melody down through our own natural voice and rhythms, without relying on made-for-purpose instruments, what’s more experimental than that? But of course, that’s not something we like to talk about these days. And you can lay the blame square at the bouncy, happy feet of just one man, Mr. Bobby “Don’t Worry” McFerrin.

Ever since McFerrin released “Don’t Worry Be Happy” and turned the wonder and magical ability of the human voice into a cartoon pastiche, a capella has been in a bad way. In any record store where you are fortunate to find an a capella section you’ll see the same scene. Prospective buyer wanders over noticing interesting section; vision of a giddily-happy McFerrin clouds judgement; buyer winces and moves on. Case in point: The Recorded A Cappella Review Board (RARB) (yes, such an organisation exists), has reviewed 788 a capella records since 1994. Tell me, how many of those did you run out and buy?

Thankfully it looks like the genre has found its saviour in French artist Camille. Le Fil, Camille’s impressive previous record has already sold well in excess of 500,000 copies. Not bad for an avant-garde concept, where the entire album was hung on the thread of a single unobtrusive note, sustained throughout the album. On Music Hole, Camille continues her exploration of the human voice, or as she puts it in her publicity, a mix of “the storytelling, chansons-feel from musicals with something more tribal: body percussions, minimalist trance, sub bass and throat singing.”

Music Hole shows Camille not just as an intriguing singer but also as a masterful arranger. At times her vocal arrangements are double-tracked, so she deliciously becomes her own rhythm section, while beat-boxing and crooning over the top. The result is mesmerising and with the sparse use of piano whispering in and out, Camille’s vocal dexterity wins you over before any curious doubts really sink in.

“Gospel With No Lord” is a wise opener. Infectious, irreverent and playful, Camille layers the beat-boxing, providing the cool bass underscore. With a delicious “Allez Camille Allez” intro making her sound like a softly spoken M.I.A., Camille is soon away on an addictive rap, cooing “I Didn’t get it from the Lord / But I know I got it / I know I got it / I didn’t get it from the Lord / I got it from my brother / I got it from my sister / I got if from my mother and father / I got it from myself.”

When Camille sings “from my father in-law / from my sister in-law”, the way she uses the croak at the back of her throat to stretch out the “awwwww” is captivating. You soon realise that we’re being cheated and all along she’s had a secret companion, her wry sense of humour. Half way through this cool little wordy rapping hood she throws you off guard, bringing in a heart-wrenching piano, a la Tori Amos circa Little Earthquakes, and you’re left there, a little crushed, before she giggles and carries back on with the fun. It’s modern day cabaret, with all the style of the Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer, but without some of the cynicism.

The wry humour continues throughout the record. On “Cats and Dogs” Camille comes across all gorgeous Ute Lemper -like, swaying a chanson melody back and fore, while warning of the true intentions of our domestic pets. “Cats and dogs are not our friends / Scratch their ears / They’ll wave their tails / And if it rains again next weekend / It’s all because of them.” It’s mischievous and fun, but when the farmyard noises appear you start to wonder if Camille hasn’t put on make-up and lights for The Muppet Show. You half expect a penguin to turn up.

As quirk and irony, the “Money Note” fares much better. Above an amazing self-made beat, which sounds spookily like the bass for Happy Mondays’ “24 Hour Party People”, Camille hilariously takes the Mariah and Whitney warblers to task. ‘‘If Dolly Parton wrote it / And Whitney Houston stole it / If Celine Dion could reach it / I’ll hit the money note.” However as much as the comedy is titillating and mischievous at times, it’s curious why Camille wishes to litter the album with such trivial fun, when her true talent—her voice and the exploration of it—is so tantalising. Thankfully the vocal genius and body kinetics are left to breathe on the majority of the songs. “Kfir” runs along on a chilled R&B groove, “Home Is Where it Hurts” is a pouncing and textural ballad, while “Waves”, appropriately so, is a swirling ambient delight.

The Online Etymology Dictionary lists the origins of a capella as from the Italian for “in the manner of the chapel”. Music Hole’s absolute treasure is “The Monk”, a layered and drifting solo piece of classical a capella that would sound rapturous if it were floating up into the high recess of a cathedral. It sounds eerily like Dawn Upshaw, the arrangement is sublime, and it suggests that hopefully in the future if Camille wishes to move beyond the swelling beat-box of her voice it won’t be into comedy, but graceful magic like this.

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The 12 Days of Swn-fest: Part 3 – Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

 

 

 

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - All in One Sixty Dancehalls

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - All in One Sixty Dancehalls

Granite-heavy Basslines, messed-up, prehistoric dubplates and a sense of style not seen since Fred Flinstone’s pet Dino got stuck in Wilma’s closet, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs straddle filthy, scraping analogue and wWonky beats and go “RAAAARRRRR!!!”

Second appearance for the extinct ones at Swn after last year’s rampaging set at Tafod.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs play the Eat Your Own Ears night at Clwb Ifor Bach on 22 October, which also features Drums of Death, Unicorn KidGold PandaZwolfGlass Diamond and DJ Scraggatron.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs on Myspace – worth visiting just for his list of influences: from Abelisaurus Achelousaurus to Zephyrosaurus

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Ducks

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Elen Allien – ‘Sool’ (Bpitch Control)

Ellen Allien - Sool

Ellen Allien - 'Sool'

It starts with an announcement; the same analogue female voice that seems to speak a hundred different languages from Boston to Belgrade. Over an invisible tannoy, and with the same polite tone—intended to put us at ease, but always sounding so alien and removed it creates an eerie distance—she informs us of our next stop: “U-Bahnhof Alexanderplatz.”

The chatter of commuters filters in. Buzzing conversation, hundreds of feet stepping out of line, the clash of crockery in a cafe. A solitary note picks its way through, growing in confidence against the background’s organic clutter. The faint sound of the subway train glides off against the slightest of synths, melting together with the rumble of the tracks and delicately descending in a way that recalls the introductory seconds to Vangelis’ “End Credits” for Bladerunner.

If it’s apparent from “Einsteigen”, Sool’s opening track, that this is a destination record, it’s unclear whether the journey belongs to us or Ellen Allien. Darling of Berlin’s distinctive minimal scene, and founder of the city’s seminal and influential Bpitch Records, Allien has always straddled the various sides of techno. From fluid minimalism with “Berlinette” to warm slices of lush electro with Apparat on “Orchestra of Bubbles”, the structures might have varied in design, but the foundations have always been grounded in sturdy, danceable, repetitive beats. Sool, however, finds Allien freeing the structure from its shackles and allowing it to breathe, like some grand design drifting into space in 2001-style grandeur.

If minimalism is taking back the beat from techno, and drawing it out into one long intoxicating rhythm, Sool‘s purpose is to free the composition from the beat altogether. Rather than rest the tracks on a generic beat and build over it, Allien finds joy in exploring the space around it, teasing out a ticking melody in the surroundings. It’s all very electronica, with different sounds and movements toyed with throughout, but cleverly ever-so restrained that it juicingly retains it’s danceability. “Caress” starts with the sound of a beat seemingly pondering the opening bars to Leftfield’s “Inspection (Check One)”, slowly, and over and over again. While the trusted beat dithers in time, it’s left to a bouncing ping-pong ball to usher the song in, a ghostly voice whispering the title so it sounds like “K-R-S”, as the track drifts along on its bare bones.

By isolating the traditional techno beat, Allien is forcing the listener to find other foot-tapping escapes. “Elphine” springs along on the tick-tock of a wristwatch, before spiralling down into whistling echoes from a long-ago acid house rave. “Bim” takes on pneumatic pulses and luscious repeats of “Bim, bam, boom.” “Zauber” rests on a looped brush-like hook, the haunting oboe melody conjuring up visions of late evenings in medieval castles as if Clannad have been caught and stripped bare. And yet while Allien experiments with her surroundings, she’s not averse to letting the beat out of its cage. Delivering seven minutes of pure, pulsating, minimalism, “Its” explores the same relentless, driving beat that both Bjork (“Declare Independence”) and Portishead (“We Carry On”) have toyed with in the past 12 months, while the last bursts of what sounds like a decaying pinball machine pour over the top.

Elsewhere, the beats are so limited that at times they sound like faint, tiny heartbeats. “Out” practically disperses with them altogether favouring building a grinding motion by dislocating and repeating the title. While on “Ondu”, a piccolo creates a distinct image against the contained sound of a dying engine, the ghostly turbulence creating its own hushed beat, like the lonely hum of a discarded spaceship.

By stripping these structures down to their bare bones, Allien has moved beyond minimalism into what can only be described as skeletalism. Yet the sounds she has imagined, however cracked and dislocated they may seem at times, remain warm and consistently infectious. Absorbing oneself in the future-noir landscape within can take some time, but as the layers are stripped away with repeated listens, Sool becomes more and more striking.

Ellen Allien talks about Sool

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The 12 Days of Swn-fest: Part 2 – Lesson No#1 presents And They Will Riot!, Devil Man, Team Brick, the Death of Her Money

DJ Scotch Egg

DJ Scotch Egg

So monolithic is Lesson No#1’s gig at the Model Inn during Swn’s opening night that you anticipate the erecting of cranes outside the venue – to enable the brutal frames of these slab-heavy pillars of wondrous noise to be lowered inside.

And it’s not like they’ve given us an easy start either.  Kicking things off at 7.30pm with some fine cage-rattling dynamic dissonance is NP9’s Death of Her Money. All spanking , Godzilla-sized riffs slapped against a scream that marvellously evokes the angry ghost of Napalm Death’s Lee Dorian, Death of Her Money aren’t afraid to slip out of the battered-grind every now for some quaint melodies; which is quite special.

Portishead faves Team Brick profess their influences as “Chlorine of swimming pool 1992” and the Cardiacs. Sometimes they sound like Christo and Jeanne-Claude muzzling Merzbow with acres of strings, horns and Steve Reich’s drums. Sometimes they scrape apart the murky, uncompromising waters to reveal haunting, harmonised a cappella. Deliciously refusing to occupy one solid genre, Team Brick isn’t even a ‘they’ they’re a ‘he’ – and you can never sure who he’ll bring with him; whether it be a full-laden orchestra or a one man soundtrack of trance-like cacophony.

Devil Man is DJ Scotch Egg’s side project with Gorgonn from Dokkebi Q. Getting the doom-gabba-chiptune legend Egg and electro-dub-punk producer Gorgonn together in the Model Inn’s tiny upstairs bar is an incredibly salacious treat from Lesson No#1; expect Scotch to bring the 8-bit Brighton glare and Gorgonn to slide-up with the infectious Dalston sleaze.

The task of topping this lot off is left to And They Will Riot!, who far from convulsing at the task are more likely to stagger violently across the stage with concrete brutalism and slab-heavy riffs that trickle down into escaping instrumentalism. Yeah, it’s all ‘Loud-quiet-loud’ -light/dark dynamics but with Fuck Buttons-style layered screams and a bass player that sounds like the son of Dan Lilker.

Lesson No#1 presents And They Will Riot, Devil Man, Team Brick, the Death of Her Money – the Model Inn, Cardiff, Thursday 22 October

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Fever Ray – ‘Fever Ray’ (V2/Rabid)

May 2009, Gigwise 9/10

Fever Ray Fever Ray

Fever Ray 'Fever Ray'

The first few droplets of sound seem expectant but afraid, a curious repetitive beat hovering slowly while a delicate synth purrs and curls up underneath. There’s a sense of early morning, of emerging from a restless night, with all the promise and fragility of a new day. “After the night when I wake up / I’ll see what tomorrow brings” comes that familiar, disembodied voice.

Fever Ray is the solo outing of the Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson and it’s appropriate that ‘If I Had a Heart’, the album’s opening track, feels slightly hesitant to emerge into the sunlight. After the incredible success of the Knife’s third album, Silent Shout, Dreijer took time out from the band she and her brother Olof Dreijer had dedicated a decade to and went about creating Fever Ray in the months surrounding the birth of her second child. The Knife’s chilling electronics have sometimes felt like the mystery between sleep and awake, but this time she has fully entered the realm, choosing the actual exhausted moments of her new parent self to document when reality and imagination tease each other.

As Dreijer herself puts it, “Half of what the songs are about is the subconscious, ideas of things happening. A lot of it is like daydreaming, dreaming when you’re awake, but tired; a lot of stories come from that world. I try to write when I‘m in that state – I’m very bad at remembering later, so I have to do it right away.”

The result is astounding. Fans of Dreijer’s previous work will recognise many of the hallmarks of the Knife – certainly the textural instrumentalism, lifting chimes and crow-black, ghostly vocals – but where the Knife choose to shift between slivers of enchantment and intimidating mischief, Fever Ray is a much more solemn affair; broody and cold, restless and hungry.

Like sleep exhaustion itself everything seems in slow motion. ‘If I Had A Heart’, ‘Keep the Streets Empty for Me’ and ‘Dry and Dusty’ crawl and snake around you, all whispering synths and warm, temptuous beats. On ‘Concrete Walls’ Dreijer adusts the pitch of her voice to such a depth it’s released as a slow, yawning plea for rest, begging for the TV or radio to lull her to sleep.

The dream-like state is beautifully explored on the startling ‘When I Grow Up’, Dreijer providing childlike fantasies over the throbbing, oozing melody (“When I grow up / I want to be a forester / Run through the moss on high heels”) before luscious chimes descend to the quivering finale.

Fever Ray so chillingly embodies the twisting consciousness in which Dreijer has so delicately immersed herself, that it feels at times almost invasive to listen in – and enjoy – such dangling emotion. Yet throughout there are also moments where you recognise Dreijer’s endearing satisfaction and awe with the enjoyment motherhood brings. “Dangling feet from window frame / Will they ever reach the floor” she coos on ‘If I Had A Heart’, while the delicious ‘Seven’ describes the urban bond between old friends. “I’ve got a friend who I’ve known since I was seven … We talk about love, we talk about dishwasher tablets, illness / and we dream about heaven”.

A wave of voices on the majestic ‘Coconut’ usher you to Fever Ray’s close and there’s a suggestion that Dreijer has also finished her journey, allowing herself to finally “Lay back with a big cigar”. In the end you feel just as exhausted, but like waking from an intense dream you instantly want to re-explore everything, and it reminds you of the line in Peter Pan where Tinkerbell says, “You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you, Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting”.

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The 12 Days of Swn-fest: Part 1 – The Drums

Drummmmmmssss

Drummmmmmssss

Dreamy, intoxicating surf-pop and Factory Records urban basslines: never the twain shall meet? Only in Brooklyn’s contagious awesome foursome. Hooks to hang your coat on with the potential for Swn-stealing glory – sshh!

It starts with whistling that feels like ice cubes trickling down your back. The bass teases in, like the Shins, but if the Shins grew up on a diet of Factory 12 inches. Vocals, pure surf-lovely vocals: “Oh mama, I wanna go surfing / Oh mama, I don’t care about nothing”. Yeah baby, “Let’s Go Surfing” is fucking awesome.

The Drums play the Moshi Moshi night at Cardiff Dempsey’s on 24 October

You’ll be dreaming about them by Christmas.

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The Megabomb Is Back – Tiga Interview

April 2009, Gigwise

Ciao Tiga

Ciao Tiga

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 “avidshopper” 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!

Tiga – Proxy’s “Raven” and “Shoes” Live at Control Fridays, Avalon Hollywood

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Doors and Corridors

I’m scared of doors and corridors.  It’s like Monsters Inc – there’s always something beyond the door. Nevermind that what lies lurking in the unknown is, generally, going to be pretty incredible. Nevermind that it might hunt me down and change my life, cradling me with an aching chorus and a whisper of soft, scented chord progressions. It’s the very fact that there is always going to be something there.

It’s fine when you start opening doors; when your record collection sits nicely on a shelf and not sprawled across two cities; when you know Star Wars, but not ‘the Card‘; when the term degenerate art only conjures images of childish graffiti in playgrounds – of course you’re going to want to open those doors; you’re going to want to smash them apart with your fists, bursting through like gremlins hungry for an angry fix. You want to see what’s on the other side. You want to know why those names like Lou, Joni and Billie roll so lusciously off the lips of your new idols. You want to begin that journey, eager and panting like Sal Paradise in New York, hanging out for adventure and the promise of the open cultural road. But then you become junkie-like in the hunt, hurtling through and devouring each new find, leap-frogging from artist to lyric to cinema to literature; each a reference and a nod to the next; each a promise of gratification. Lapping at the leftovers,  like Zammo faced with an exploded bag of gak, before you know it it’s too late. Too many doors opened, leading to too many corridors with further doors, leading back and through this wicked mosaic of art and life. Before long, you’ve bought three copies of Blue Train, not realising you already owned the first two. But worse: you know you already have Transformer on 180gm vinyl and CD but you still look at it adoringly on the shelf in Fopp, sitting lonely amongst the Razorlight surplus – cut-price but still smug as fuck – and you actually think it would be a good idea to buy it again. And you have a list as long as the On the Road scroll of all your must do’s, must see’s, must gigs, must reads. And then your head explodes, and you sit watching the X Factor,  like John Doe in Se7en, wanting to taste the life of a simple man. Wishing for that simple shelf of greatest hits.

Cover of the exhibition program: Degenerate Art exhibition, 1937

Cover of the exhibition program: Degenerate Art exhibition, 1937

Sometimes I’ve been so scared of doors that if I’ve been out on a Saturday night I’ll ensure I never arrive home between 1am and 3am – because  that’s when MTV2 showed 120 minutes. 120 minutes of eclectic new music and past classics – a hunter’s dream. Drunk on liqueur and excitement I knew I’d be cursed not to remember these amazing new names in the morning – names like Evil Nine, Bumblebeez, Futureshock,  Buck 65, the Teenagers – so I’d grab the nearest writing utensil and scrawl these future obsessions anywhere I could. I’d awake in the morning to a copy of the Saturday Guardian covered in scribbles of band names, some so illegible I’d sit there thinking ‘could that have been the one to change my life??’ In the end it became easier to avoid 120 minutes altogether. But I’d more than often relapse.

I still fear doors and corridors. Sometimes I think I haven’t any head space to let any more in – I know for certain I’m running out of money. But every day I still open a new door, walk down a new corridor and enter into a whole new world. It still scares me, but it’s what I do.

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