Sunday, January 27, 2019

Tiga - American Gigolo (Original TC Review)

Turbo Recordings: 2001

(2019 Update:
Sometimes I wonder if I oversell this CD. For sure my enjoyment of it still hasn't diminished in the slightest but perhaps I was a tad too overzealous in proclaiming it to be "the
Tranceport of electroclash". Come to think of it, does anyone really even remember Oakenfold's mix CD anymore? For sure none of the new trance cats care about it, though if you wanted to give someone a primer on this particular music, Tiga's set still does the trick. And I have anecdotal proof!

One time I played this at work, and a co-worker inquired about it, as my co-workers are wont to do when they hear dope music emanating from my bluetooth speaker. I told him and he promptly downloaded a copy (from wherever, I dunno'). Later that week, he tells me that he played it at home while doing housework with some friends, and
they liked it so much that they requested he replay it over and over. Hot damn, if this CD has that kind of power fifteen years after its release, then it's a dope CD indeed, my friends!)


IN BRIEF: Then, a revelation. Now, not so much.

With so many former ‘electroclash’ stars releasing albums this year (Tiga, DJ Hell, Vitalic, Miss Kittin & The Hacker, Felix da Housecat, Fischerspooner), it can be difficult to fathom many of them were veritable unknowns at the beginning of the decade. Sure, some had been in the game for a while and garnered a few respectable plaudits along the way, but in no way were they stars. Remember, this was at the time of superstar trance DJs and epic progressive sets from Global Underground and Renaissance mainstays, not to mention ample amounts of funky disco house filling the store racks. In the year 2000, the very notion of gritty electro, punky techno, and sleazy EBM grabbing the spotlight by the balls was absurd. Yet the underground buzz started to catch and as folks-in-the-know grew tired of expensive superclubs, a tidal-wave of momentum surged the electro-revival into the mainstream.

Here in good ol’ Northern Americana, you can point to a single compilation that got the ball rolling: Tiga’s American Gigolo. It was conceived when the Montreal native, upon recognizing just how cutting edge the International Deejay Gigolo sound was at the time, figured it would do the American scene some good to properly introduce this brash style of techno to a stagnating continent. DJ Hell, already having garnered a large cult following in Europe with his label, seemed to agree it was time to take the U.S.A. and Canada.

Tiga’s label itself, Turbo Recordings, had been gaining similar momentum on this continent with a run of classy, varied DJ mixes, though mostly sticking with tried and tested house and techno. When this one dropped, however, it not only marked the beginning of electro’s resurge but also Turbo’s re-imaging. All in all, a perfect marriage.

Your requisite track-list glance reveals a number of bona-fide classics. Sunglasses At Night, Porno Actress, Frank Sinatra, I’m A Disco Dancer, Poney Part 1, Emerge… I could go on. If you didn’t know better, you’d almost swear this was some kind of ‘Electroclash Anthems’ from Ministry Of Sound. Yet, it’s simply a label showcase: twenty-five tracks across twenty-four singles (out of the first eighty) from one label. It’s that realization that makes this mix all the more remarkable, that just one freakin’ label was responsible for so many classics and for exposing so many future stars.

But,” you say, “so what? How is this unique now?” Good point, my unseen questioner. While this may have been the first major exposure for guys like Vitalic, Fischerspooner, and even Tiga as a proper singer, the huge bandwagon jumping that ensued from major labels in the following two years flooded the market with similar compilations, many of which were far more comprehensive of this sound than American Gigolo. In many ways, it’s similar to what happened with Paul Oakenfold’s original Tranceport - sure, it exposed a large number people to a relatively fresh sound with several strong, memorable singles for the first time, but its quality was easily been eclipsed in later years (of course, part of the handicap here is the fact the music’s from only one label; not sure what Oakenfold’s excuse is).

Heck, even Tiga, usually a capable DJ, doesn’t bring his A-game here. While he pulls out some brilliantly daft blends and mash-ups - throwing the over-emoting Marc Almond chorus from Soul On Soul into the great synth chords in Vitalic’s You Prefer Cocaine is hilariously awesome - he also forces some ugly transitions too. The mix from DJ Naughty’s Boing Bum Tschag into his own Sunglasses At Night is brutal, and seemingly only done as an inside joke - Boing Bum Tschag being Gigolo’s first release, while Sunglasses At Night was (at the time) the label’s latest.

On the other hand, some of Tiga’s rough transitions only added to this compilation’s allure. After so many years of pristine polished progressive trance sets (often done in a studio), to hear a ‘balls to the walls’ mix coupled with such punky attitude in the music, you really did believe this could be the next big thing. The minimalist nihilism of the opening stretch, forays into strong house and tech in the middle… solid enough. Then Vitalic comes in, and the mix basically bludgeons you with energy; more importantly, it suggests wonderful possibilities for this sound’s future. For a brief moment, it even makes then-trance’s poster boy Ferry Corsten seem like a perfect fit (thanks in large part to The Hacker; also it certainly can’t be a coincidence that Corsten came out with Punk shortly after Gigolo did their remixes for Soul On Soul). By the time Emerge has wrapped up, you can’t help but wonder, nearly a decade later, why this music didn’t have the strong future it hinted at.

Well, there were many reasons for it, some of which already touched upon in this review. Here’s not the place to delve deeply into it though. Rather, the only remaining question I’ll discuss is whether American Gigolo is still worth your time and pennies. Frankly, you can’t fault the music, and even if the mixing isn’t the greatest, it’s still fine enough to not be too distracting. If you’re looking for a more complete electroclash compilation, there are better options out there, even as tribute mixes available for free on DJ websites. In the end, though, this little mix from Tiga is fun enough to throw on, as very little on here has dated. Easily a worthy pick-up if you find it on the cheap.

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2009. © All rights reserved.


ACE TRACKS:
The ones you heard everywhere from 2001-2003.

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