Of course 2005's Sexor—Tiga's first album as a singer after a few genre-defining mixtapes as a DJ (Mixed Emotions, American Gigolo, DJ Kicks)—didn't do much to dispel the so-called fraudulent allure of his singing/producing career. After all, it heavily relied on cover versions of Nine Inch Nails and Talking Heads, previous successes such as "Pleasure from the Bass" and "Louder Than a Bomb" and snappy Altern-8 references.
Ciao!—an album he took a year-and-a-half to record with the help of the Soulwax brothers, DFA mogul James Murphy, Scandinavian techno mammoths Jesper Dahlbäck and Jori Hulkkonen and Canadian homme-à-tout-faire Gonzales—won't change prejudice much. And it shouldn't. It merely solidifies Tiga's status as synth pop's contemporary maverick unashamed to dress his initial techno self up in poppy, more immediate and gregarious clothing.
"What You Need," for instance, immediately attracts attention to itself, being the kind of insane, over-the-top banger the Dewaele brothers have been hammering since their "Lovelight" and "Standing in the Way of Control" remixes. "Mind Dimension" is also an obviously peculiar one, considering its back-to-basics approach. On early listens, the song might be an underwhelming affair, an overtly simple and dumb populist number with a bassline and vocals so elementary it sounds as if it is exhausted by its own silliness. When Ivan Smagghe claimed it was the "least 'now' record" he had heard in a while, it seemed like polite euphemism; in retrospect, you realized that it has the kind of timelessness that owes as much to Chicago pioneers as it does to prime-era '90s Prodigy. It quickly gives place to current single "Shoes," a light and frivolous number akin to "Far For Home," that links the dots between sheer pop thrills and his early house background, something similarly carried off on "Overtime," which features crisp electro pads, EBM-lite undertones and a crazy handclap fest.
Then there are the slow ones. On the previous long player, "Down in It" and "The Ballad of Sexor" reduced the tempo to a sluggish state it never recovered from. The end of Ciao! is a different story. After a perky yet melancholy-filled "Speak, Memory," you get to the album's slow burning apex: "Gentle Giant." Co-produced by DFA's James Murphy, it's the estranged cousin of LCD Soundsystem's more Enoesque moments like "Too Much Love" or "Someone Great," but instead of Murphy's debonair machismo, you get Tiga's heartfelt vocals about loss and vulnerability. When Jake Shears (whose collaboration here is discreet but necessary) intones the "Don't wake me, please, don't wake me" chorus, it becomes a strangely uplifting finale to a strangely uplifting miniature anthem. The fact something so gentle and emotional is coming from a DJ who made a name for himself with soi-disant ironic stances is nothing short of a small revelation.
Sure, you'd then have every right to doubt Tiga's sincerity during the two-minute, Gonzales-enhanced piano intro to "Love Don't Dance Here Anymore," the album's epic closing disco track about the sad fading of a DJing career. Yet that intro is essential, considering the drama it creates when the Lindstrøm-worthy bassline and live drumming finally kick in. Clocking in at ten minutes, it's everything "Good as Gold" hoped for but never totally succeeded at in its telescoping of disco, Italo, funk and house, and it is a perfect ending to an otherwise impeccable album.
The Montrealer intuitively knows that dance music is, in essence, pop music, no matter how you try to spin it. This is why you could easily say that Ciao! is the most perfectly-formed and appealing dance pop album since Confessions on a Dance Floor, a statement that reveals a lot about its glossy sheen, but also about its crossover potential. In the hands of the right radio station programmers, Ciao! could give current chart topper Calvin Harris a run for his cheesy money; in the hands of diversified remixers such as Green Velvet and Mr Oizo, these tracks will rule the knowing dance floors for months to come.