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Miss Kittin & The Hacker
Two Iain Moffat , May 27th, 2009 06:35

Given how completely Frankmusik, La Roux and, any day now, Little Boots have become ensconced in the canon, you'd have thought that their electroclash ancestors could have had a blinder of a 2009 as well. But Peaches, though still sounding anything but spent, continues to contend with diminishing returns, while Fischerspooner's re-emergence has been something of a low-key one, which is surely an affront to everything they ever stood for. Even Tiga remains, with the best will in the world, a noticeably niche concern. How, then, can Caroline "Miss Kittin" Herve hope to buck this particular trend when her Felix-and-'Frank Sinatra'-fuelled heyday looms at a similar distance?

Certainly not with a guns-blazing return; although, admittedly, decadent detachment always was her default state, and that remains the case here. Still, that's not necessarily the asset it might once have been — you may recall that a similarly aloof turn from Wesley Snipes was said to be one of the key selling points of the original Blade film, yet by the franchise's demise it would have taken a generous soul to describe what he was delivering as "a performance". And unfortunately that's the fundamental curve being followed here. Where once Kittin's tones conjured unsettling menace ('Rippin Kittin', still one of the decade's high points) or haughtily selfconscious glamour ('1982'), there's now only ennui — 'The Womb' may be the year's most wholeheartedly disengaged album opener — and aimless, amorphous echoing — 'Ray Ban' may be designed to evoke total disappearance, but it does its job almost too well. And then there's that cover: 'Suspicious Minds' is, admittedly, a song that's done few favours to the oeuvres of talented artists as disparate as Candi Staton and Peter von Poehl, but unleashing a version that's outclassed even by one of Gareth Gates' weakest performances displays, at best, a cavalier carelessness wholly unworthy of her.

Frankly, it's to the Hacker's considerable credit that he's engaged in such an endearingly consistent salvage mission here. Admittedly, seekers of the groundbreaking will come away less than laden-down, but in an age that's spawning such dazzling consolidation of thirty-something years' worth of techno tropes there's something to be said for both his shrewdness and his enduring appreciation of how dancefloors work in the unholiest of hours. 'PPPO', for instance (which comes with only the faintest feline presence) plays with the floorboards-fracturing knives at the back of the early Warp cutlery drawer and embarks on several exhilarating instances of sudden widening; 'Electronic City', if anything, adds a more minimalist edge to 'Computer World'-era Kraftwerk.

Standout track 'Party In My Head' not only evokes an early-80s Sheffieldian industrialism but welds it to the twinkling post-acid exuberance of any number of Hacienda favourites. Even Kittin herself excels here, recast as a mischievous disco ringmistress; frustratingly, we're reminded of what this album could've been. Kitten and The Hacker's history is such that we still wouldn't shy away from recommending that you have one of their albums in your collection, but — surely — even they don't believe you're better off with Two.