Miss Kittin: Mixing Me

[7 July 2005]

By Tim O'Neil

Last year’s I.Com was one of the year’s best records, but outside of the traditionally insular dance music press it didn’t get a lot of attention. It’s pretty obvious that the majority of the indie music world regards electronic music as something of a fad whose sell-by date passed a good few years back. The genre doesn’t get a lot of attention in the conventional press, either, so in lieu of actual critical exposure most dance artists who aren’t already recognizable names with a certain degree of critical cache (the Chemical Brothers and the Basement Jaxx spring to mind) are forced to either become underground phenomena or write off the United States altogether.

To her credit, Miss Kittin (nee Caroline Herve) isn’t giving up the US without a fight. Although she came to prominence in Europe during the brief reign of “electroclash”, she has gone far towards distancing herself from the scene. Although her music retains elements of electro, her own mixes have always steered closer to European techno and traditional house. While it is true that she is a frequent collaborator (with folks such as Felix da Housecat, Goldenboy and the Hacker), everything she puts her name on has a distinctive sensibility that surpasses the limiting generic restraints of modern dance. As a commanding female presence in a notoriously male-dominated—not to mention more-than-a-little sexist—field, she uses her sex appeal as an ironic wedge to undermine listener and audience presumptions.

Mixing Me is something of an oddity. Instead of merely putting out the various remixes from the I.Com 12” singles on CD, Miss Kittin has taken a number of the mixes, added an original new track and mixed them herself for this new, bargain-priced 35-minute disc. Released only in the United States in conjunction with her appearance at this year’s Coachella festival, it’s an interesting, if somewhat frustrating artifact.

The mix itself is excellent. Miss Kittin is one of the very best and most imaginative DJs working today, and anyone who’s heard her mix before can attest that this could hardly have presented her with much of a challenge. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing: the tracks themselves are excellent and hearing them in a seamless chunk is hardly a bad thing.

The mix begins with the Kittin + Zdar Aka-Pella of “Professional Distortion”. (Philip) Zdar is a veteran of the French house scene, but this is hardly a good showcase for his talent: this is an a capella version of the track with only some deep synth blurbs added underneath. But it segues smoothly into Abe Duque’s mix of “Requiem For A Hit”, which transplants the acerbic hard house of the original onto a funky acid house template.

“Soundtrack of Now” is the EP’s sole original track, a European techno number that makes for a good bridge into Michael Mayer’s mix of “Happy Violentine”. Mayer—notable for his releases on the acclaimed Kompakt label—produces an energetic stomper that seems slightly less minimal than the bulk of Kompakt’s output, but which could easily be a peak-hour record at any superclub you could care to mention. The GE + GM mix of “Requiem For a Hit” is an excellent retro-house workout, complete with early-90s piano sample and clunking breakbeats.

The Modeselektor mix of “Professional Distortion” reimagines the track as an angry techno monster with forceful, distorted basslines and harsh industrial tones. LFO’s mix of “Happy Violentine” introduces atmospheric strings alongside LFO’s traditional mechanistic funk. The disc ends with the album version of “Allergic”, and as that moody, melancholy track was one of the highlights of I.Com it proves an excellent coda to this mix.

But as enjoyable as Mixing Me is—and it is very enjoyable, especially at the bargain price—it is still something of a gimmick. Those more familiar with Miss Kittin’s material can’t help but wishing that they could have released the remixes and original track on CD outside of or in addition to this mixed format. None of these mixes have been available on CD before, and the 12” releases from which they come are hard to find. The disc also earns a serious demerit for not including the Mad Professor Smiling Orange Dub of “Happy Violentine” that is listed in the booklet—a puzzling omission considering that it’s, y’know, listed in the booklet.

Fans of Miss Kittin should enjoy the disc despite possible redundancies, and anyone unfamiliar with her music could do a lot worse than giving it a try in this unique format. It will be interesting to see if this takes off as a promotional tool for electronic music in America. It’s not that people don’t like electronic music, but that it’s extremely obscure in many parts of the country. Maybe a cheap sampler like this on store shelves will prompt a few folks—folks who would otherwise have shied away from an album’s-worth of material by an untried artist—to take a chance. If they do, it’s even money they return for a copy of I.Com.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/misskitten-mixingme/