Saturday 16 May 2020

Retro Reviews: Miss Kittin - I Com

Another idea I've been toying with for some time, what good is a massive back catalogue of music if you don't revisit it from time to time? (That and I've got the itch to do some reviews, and the last new post on the Boogiepop OST was essentially that.) So with that in mind we're kicking off a new series(?) in which I look back at albums that I've loved, lost, fallen out with and everything in between. And what better place to start than with Miss Kittin. Kittin is one of my favourite vocalists since I heard her on Felix Da Housecat's Kittenz & Thee Glitz in the early 00's. Which sets us up nicely for my opening line. After the art of course.

By the early 00's Kittin was a big name, she'd had a successful run with The Hacker and was featuring on tons of records but seemingly not making many herself. In fact it would take until 2004 for a Kittin solo album to eventually appear, and Kittin is very much aware of this even poking fun at her number of featuring credits on the CD itself with the line "... there should not be a 'Miss Kittin' section in record stores, but a 'Featuring Miss Kittin' one". Not that the time taken is indicative of a lack of creativity, in fact Kittin's output has been very consistent since then, but I imagine there's a great deal of pressure when making your debut record, especially when coming from such popularity, and the longer you wait the worse it would get.

The album opens incredibly strongly, with the punchy punky Kittin we've come to know out in full force, delivering both the lyrical content and style we've become accustomed to on full display (although a little more melodic that her delivery on say, Madame Hollywood and with some questionable rhymes), but we already knew that Kittin had that talent, what we're interested in now is the production side of things. That side doesn't disappoint either and it certainly lives up to its title, something I really love about I Com as an album is the breakdowns; Kittin has this amazing sense of timing and sound and effortlessly injects these moments of calm and euphoria throughout.

Likewise it's not long before the Electroclash side of Kittin makes an appearance; not as vulgar as her & The Hacker's Frank Sinatra maybe, but certainly more than a little raunchy. This is one of the singles from the album and I think it was a good choice, if you've checked out this album based on her previous work with the Hacker and friends you certainly will find yourself in good company. Not to repeat myself either but this one has an absolutely stellar breakdown as well, it's much more focused than the one on Distortion and has some absolutely beautiful keys going on. That is before it all gives way and the track kicks back in at full force with no build up or anything. The second half has this lovely contrast between these sparkly backing synths and the kicks and pulsing bass we've had throughout.

But here is where we get critical. Not critical in a negative sense but certainly an analysis. We're coming off one single and onto the next, and this is one of the parts of I Com that I think is a little odd and that is it's structure. We've just had 2 absolutely bombastic tracks back to back, track 3 however is a super sedate number that takes a solid 10 seconds plus to fade in. I have no complaints with the track itself, Kititn's flexibility really shines here and it begins to solidify the album's overall techy sound. Was it a good choice for a single? Yeah actually, Kittin's more downtempo stuff is often gorgeous to listen to and gives her more to her sound identity other than "Her that does all those features and makes Electroclash" but it does demonstrate the album's biggest downside and that is pacing and structure. I have nothing against these more mediative tracks, but it certainly could have been placed better on the album, as it stands right now it's right in between two really fast paced tracks and it just feels slightly out of place with no wind down. More on that in a second.

The next track immediately betrays me saying that the album was defining it's techy sound with a return to more of an punky acoustic instrumentation a la Professional Distortion on the very punnily titled Meet Sue Be She (It's about cars, get it?). But that leads into a track that I think could have nicely set up as an introduction to Happy Violentine. Here Kittin tries a more conventional and perhaps slightly poppy sound, showing potentially the most vocal variety so far on those choruses, definitely far from the monotone musings of tracks like Madame Hollywood where she made her name. Nowhere near as edgy as her electroclash contemporaries here but that's not really a detriment, the track is supposed to be something lighter, which is again why I think it could have been used to structure the album a little better.


On Allergic you can really feel Kittin's heart behind the production, it may be a little minimal at times for my taste but there's no doubt this is the kind of record she wanted to be making at the time and still holds up as one of the stronger pieces of the album. The breakdowns aren't quite as dreamy as the other tracks mentioned so far which means that while minimal, it keeps a fairly consistent structure. It's one of the more familiar sounding pieces too if you're here from her previous collaborations and featuring credits, it's the kind of thing you can imagine a solo project to sound like based on them, especially compared to the opening tracks.(Ed Note: This version on Spotify seems to be from a mix for some reason? No real effect other than it plays slightly faster than the album one and has a bit of Happy Violentine at the beginning)

Dub About Me rings in the last few tracks of the album, and it's another one of my favourites. It's an extended downbeat number that I think really shows off that side of the album very well, the way it builds to that peak at around 3 minutes in is pretty spectacular, and I adore the contrasting combination of the wobbly synths and Kittin's vocals. The other set of vocals always sounded a little out of place to me; they're from the original track that this is essentially a cover/remix of: Smash TV's What About Me. It's perhaps a little long at 7 minutes but I can't say I've ever felt like it was overstaying it's welcome, I can definitely see that 3 minute buildup turning some people away though.

It pains me to do so, but I am skipping over some tracks here, including the brilliant Soundtrack Of Now (again featuring an amazing euphoric breakdown!) but also some of the more... experimental I suppose is the right word, these end tracks feature stripped back electronics and in the case of I is a spoken word piece where Kittin whispers sweet nothings to you about technology. Again these tracks are good, I do actually really like the way I builds up to its crescendo for example but they are once again oddly placed. The album can't seem to make up it's mind whether it wants to be on the Dancefloor or be more for home listening, the two different contexts are equally important to her, as she mentions on the Miss Kittin & The Hacker track You And Us, as well as in spoken word form on her Radio Caroline compilation and I admire her for including them both regardless and for what it's worth Kittin's later albums do manage to structure this better.

As a first venture I Com is a fine album, and you can definitely feel Miss Kittin's personality bleed through in both the tracks themselves and her playfully illustrated and annotated liner notes. I suppose it all loops back around to her message on the CD itself; this isn't a 'Featuring Miss Kittin' record, it's a Miss Kittin record, and you can't go in with any preconceived ideas about what it's going to sound like based on her past collaborations alone. Her sound only got more refined from here as is to be expected, but even on this debut you can see the kind of vibe that she's carving for herself, and continues to do so to this day.


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