Barbara Panther, Barbara Panther

Andrew Harrison

By Andrew Harrison

on 05.05.11 in Reviews

From Sally Bowles to Grace Jones to today's parade of icy club starlets, the role of foreboding Euro-femme fatale has declined from a persona to pure schtick. It's not too hard to pull it off any more. So Berlin-based Barbara Panther comes as a breath of fresh air. Born in Rwanda and raised in Brussels, she exists in a cloud of minimal beats and billowing analogue synths — house music wonk Matthew Herbert produces — but her personality is pure pop mischief, a gleeful grinning demon advocating dancing, sex magic, making up your own religion and (on "Voodoo") the notion that the poor should eat the rich. Her self-titled is glitch-tech with a libido, pop electro with a glint of madness in its eye.

Pop electro with a glint of madness in its eye

With her idiosyncratic pronunciation (we get lots of Transylvanian "vy don't ve" and one "Frankenshtein") and her animal whoops, Ms. Panther comes off as a bewitching splice of Björk, Robyn, Janelle Monae and Nena of "99 Red Balloons" fame, and Herbert's comic, fidgety radiophonics leave plenty of room for Panther's big personality to fill the spaces. The record's secret weapon is a deft melodic sweetness that elevates tracks like "Moonlightpeople" above the sour and disciplinarian side of the Deutsche techno thing, pumping plenty of joy into Panther and Herbert's ramshackle found sounds and analogue thunderstorms. She understands instinctively that pop art is nothing without the pop, and here, has crafted the feel-good class-war cannibalism album of the summer.