Geneva is hardly the first, second, or even tenth city you’d think of going to in search of hit music. London, Paris, Berlin, even Cairo and Dakar, yes; Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Mexico City, maybe. Geneva rarely comes up in conversations about music. On the other hand, it is one of the liveliest, most prosperous cities in Europe. It’s studded with Internet cafés, high-fashion shoe stores, outdoor restaurants, and nighttime discos. It’s Paris with curves, Milan with a breeze and a tiny bit of German. It’s a seriously expensive babble of a place, a wristful of Rolex watches in the midst of which thrives Miss Kittin, one of the most seductive dance-music, electronic, and Europop performers of the moment. When Miss Kittin — née Caroline Herve — steps to the mike, people listen. And dance.
Whether backed by DJ the Hacker on First Album or paired with Goldenboy on Or (both Emperor Norton), Miss Kittin sets off sparks. The Genevans she talks of on First Album make and spend too much money ("Stock Exchange"), dance all night, model their clothes ("Walk On By"), and strip ("Stripper," in which she deadpans, "My girlfriend is a stripper, in a Swiss peep show"). They dream even when awake, and they live in the shadows ("L’homme dans l’ombre"). Miss Kittin’s talk-singing voice is tiny, tonally flat, high-pitched, and teenyboppish. She’s too cool to scream. Sometimes she sounds (sleepily) delirious, like the women of French variété; more often her voice recalls the girls of Japan’s Shonen Knife. She shares that trio’s love of everyday life. Except that where the Shonens sing of the joys of eating choco bars, Miss Kittin talks about "Life on MTV" and "Frank Sinatra."
"Frank Sinatra" has also been given a house-music remix by Danny Tenaglia on the two-CD Global Underground: Athens (Boxed). The song’s beat track is ticklish and giddy, as Kittin starts to make her point. "Every night with my star friends we eat caviar and drink champagne," she pouts. "Sniffing in the VIP area we talk about Frank Sinatra. You know Frank Sinatra? He’s dead!!!" Here Kittin giggles and then proceeds to aftershock: "To be famous is so nice, suck my dick kiss my ass! In limousines we have sex every night with my famous friends. Nice!!!" And on it goes, the "motherfuckers are so nice, suck my dick, lick my ass" as marijuana-puff sounds alternate with Hacker’s prissy electronic beat and silly high-heeled snare drum.
The version of "Frank Sinatra" on First Album feels less depraved. The rapid rudeness of the song, however, is part of its charm amid a set featuring women conscious of themselves as expensively sexual bodies and guys who never allow themselves to be so consciously identified. Most of First Album’s characters live with blatancy now and question marks later; in "Frank Sinatra," however, blatancy conquers all doubts. "In the mix we have sex." Not maybe, not searching, but "we have."
An even harsher moment, "Rippin’ Kittin," scars Or. Except for this one dark descent, the CD sounds even more Shonen Knife–like than First Album. "Enjoy with us this wonderful journey into the Swiss way of life," tweets Kitten as she segues languidly into the bi-lingual "autopilot" (she pronounces it "peelot"), a song tinkly and light with a touch of the cartoonish. The next nine tracks are equally delightful and tasty daydreams. Stefan Altenburger, who DJs as Goldenboy, supports Kittin with beats that range from the Italian electro-disco of "It’s Good for You To Meet People like Us" to cool space rhythms that update 1980s Kraftwerk and Yello ("nix" and "kuckucksuhr") and Pet Shop Boys–styled house music and back to 1980s Italian space disco ("Campari Soda" and "After 8," at which hour, pipes Kittin, "we eat Swiss chooco-layte . . . ice cream and candies . . . mousse and truffles").
Goldenboy’s beats are the kind that typify the tough, lithe cool of Rimini, where you’d find the Italian seaside equivalent of America’s Miami sound; and though Kittin’s Geneva occupies a setting much more mountain than beach, Goldenboy’s beach beat conveys all the easygoing blasé hedonism that she talks about. Perfect pleasure, except for "Rippin’ Kittin," in which, to the sound of a sour sad Europop beat, Kittin pleads with her mother in a voice soft with childlike respect: "Mommy, can I go out tonight?" But then it comes, words as evil as Baudelaire’s flowers. "I feel like taking a life," she pouts. "Daddy can I go out and hunt tonight? Like you do on Sunday mornings? Mommy, can I go out and kill tonight? Please! I want to steal the kitchen knife . . . " And on it goes, Kittin as Jill the Ripper. So much for the perfect pleasure. Next to "Rippin’ Kittin," "Frank Sinatra" sounds tame.