Tiga: DJ Kicks

Andy Hermann


DJ Kicks

Label: !K7
US Release Date: 2003-02-04
UK Release Date: 2003-01-27

How good is DJ Tiga? So good that he can spin an entire disc's worth of electro and even I, who once described it as "a genre that was pretty much played out by the late '80s", can't seem to get the damn thing out of my car stereo. The Montrealer's addition to !K7 Records' excellent DJ Kicks series proves once and for all that Tiga is the reigning prince of this cheesiest of dance music genres.

Tiga's proven his mettle before with electro, or nu-electro, or electro-clash, or whatever the hell you want to call this silly flashback to '80s synth pop and New Wave. When he released his Mixed Emotions album just two years ago, however, he was still primarily a techno DJ; a "bonus electro-funk mix" was tucked into a second CD accompanying his "main" set of tribal-flavored tech-house. Since then, electro has blown up like a cheap meth lab, and Tiga's ridden the wave as shamelessly as anyone, releasing a new remix of fellow Canadian Cory Hart's '80s synth pop classic "Sunglasses at Night" as well as his own version of fellow electro-guru Felix Da Housecat's "Madame Hollywood". But let the man ride; whatever his motives for jumping decisively from techno to electro, Tiga's produced and mixed some of genre's best stuff, and his DJ sets, at least on disc, are unrivaled, offering up more wit, subtlety and ass-shaking groove than pretty much all of his peers put together.

Lest anyone doubt such a sweeping pronouncement, I offer as evidence the first seven tracks of this DJ Kicks release, which I defy you to sit through without busting at least one robot move. Quickly setting the tone with the bubbling synths and fuzzy vocoders of Jolly Music's "Radio Jolly", Tiga moves things through funkier territory with Chromed's "You're So Gangsta" and finally into full-blown synth-pop mode with the clinical-but-still-funky "Ich und Elaine", a fantastic track from 2Raumwohnung highlighted by a breathy German diva and a menacingly sharp-edged bass synth. Then, just when you think things can't get any better, they do, as Tiga artfully layers the disco beat and cootchy-coo vocals of Traffic Signs' "The Big Fake" with the chugging power chord guitars of Tutto Matto's Totally 80s outtake, "You". He even gets the two tracks' vocals to blend seemlessly. Even if he's using studio trickery instead of actual turntable mixing, this is still amazingly intricate stuff.

The highlight of the album's first half comes with that seventh track I alluded to earlier, the delightfully bitchy "Deceptacon" from post-punk grrrls Le Tigre. Remixed by Mo' Wax veterans DFA with an irresistible bassline, and featuring a fantastic lead vocal delivered by ex-Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna with the raw-throated whininess of your worst ex-girlfriend, "Deceptacon" has the requisite electro attitude in spades, but also many of the elements the genre too often lacks: a recognizable hook, smart song structure, and a relentless sense of groove. Inevitably, the next track is a letdown, even it though comes from the compilation's best-known artist, Soft Cell (of "Tainted Love" fame). Things pick up again with the martial synth bass of Break 3000's oh-so-Germanic "Sacrifice", then really hit stride with Codec & Flexor's "Time Has Changed", which sounds like Naked Eyes as remixed by Basement Jaxx.

Tiga gets his token novelty track out of the way with an entertainingly distorted remix of the 1990 dance hit "Dirty Cash", then proceeds into less flashy tracks that give him more room to flex his mixing muscles. The way he layers the brittle synth textures of Crowdpleaser & St. Plomb's "Rather Be" with the sparse hip-hop of Water Lilly & St. Plomb's "Shake a Leg", then segues from there into pure electro-funk terrain with the back-to-back mechanized dance anthems of Volga Select's "The Unconditional Discipline of the Bastard Prince" and Offpop's "Lowrider" has to be heard to be believed. You can't even rattle off the names of these artists and tracks as smoothly as he blends them together.

Tiga shows his techno roots on the dark, brooding "Home Again" by M.A.N.D.Y., which sets the table for his own dense, bubbling "Man Hrdina", fellow techno/electro genre-hopper Swayzak's prettily New Orderish "Ikea", and the jittery bliptronica of Charles Manier's "Bang Bang Lover". Throughout this segment of his mix, apart from a few purely atmospheric samples, Tiga eschews vocals, letting the skittering, programmed beats and pulsating synths take center stage. It's a nice way to lead into his deliberately kitschy finale, a double-whammy of pure electro-cheese in the form of Martini Bros's uber-campy "The Biggest Fan" (featuring the immortal lyric "I am myself my biggest fan" delivered in a thick, almost certainly fake German accent) and Tiga's "Mister Hollywood" remix -- a full-blown remake, actually -- of Felix da Housecat's seminal nu-electro track "Madame Hollywood". Personally, it's in these sort of poseur anthems that electro loses me, but for the hardcore fans, I suppose these two little ditties represent the cheese at the end of the long rat maze of preceeding songs that actually encourage dancing more than pose-striking.

Is Tiga talented enough to save nu-electro from its cynical, fashion-plate theatrics? Who is? But he is talented enough to survive the genre's inevitable demise -- which, God willing, will happen by the time you finish reading this -- and move on to his next incarnation with his reputation relatively intact. Whatever he does next, you can bet it'll be worth dancing to.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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