MISS KITTIN at the Mod Club Theatre (722 College), Tuesday (July 27), $12 advance. 416-588-4663.
Somewhere in Berlin, Miss Kittin, aka Caroline Hervé, is surfing the Internet on her laptop, ignoring my e-mailed questions. Can't say I really blame her, considering the lyrical content of her debut album, I Com, which deals heavily with the surrealism of her newfound stardom as an in-demand non-singer. "I have to smile. I have to show. I have to be nice all the time," she chants in her trademark icy monotone on the opening track, Professional Distortion, a far cry from the bravado of her breakthrough hit as a vocalist, Frank Sinatra ("To be famous is so nice. Suck my dick. Kiss my ass. In limousines we have sex every night with my famous friends").
Fame has been a reoccurring theme for her, even before anyone outside of the European dance music underground knew who she was. It was the combination of that fascination and her talk-singing vocal style that initially caused her to be lumped in with the incredibly brief electroclash fad.
Sensibly, for her first solo album she's done her best to break out of that typecasting, and came up with a surprisingly diverse record. Most reviewers note the Massive Attack vibe of Dub About Me, while the other downtempo moments typically get compared to Björk (something all quirky female singers with accents and broken English should be used to by now).
The funny thing is, she's really not a singer. Her original claim to minor fame was as a DJ - she mixed her first two records a decade ago, and it's still what she's most comfortable doing. A couple of years into her DJ career, she laid some vocals over a beat by the Hacker, and the resulting track (Frank Sinatra) became the blueprint for a million electro-techno clones
Since then, her voice has appeared on tracks by Sven Vath, Steve Bug, Tricky, T. Raumschmiere, DJ Hell, Detroit Grand Pubahs and Felix Da Housecat. The collaboration with Felix Da Housecat was particularly successful and launched his career in a whole different direction from the funky house sound he made his name on, as well as delivering two bona fide anthems.
Even though her personality and style were front and centre on these records, she's revealed in interviews that she wasn't actually paid for most of them. On the other hand, her new notoriety has put her in the position of being able to tour and command significant DJ fees.
Becoming an accidental pop star has its disadvantages, though. Suddenly, people doubt her DJ skills, assume she can't produce and expect her to stand onstage and perform. In many ways, it's the age-old story of how women get treated in the music industry. There's often an assumption that they're just a face and a voice, incapable of any of the techy stuff. In reality, she'd rather just spin vinyl, a role she refers to as "record pushing."
That may be how she prefers to label what she does, but in reality she's had a much greater effect on dance music than the average record pusher - she's managed to bring the anti-star ethos of punk rock and DJ culture together with a hook-heavy pop sensibility. That aesthetic has revitalized both techno and house, was a defining moment in electroclash (RIP) and helped people remember that dance music should be sexy as well as dark.