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House Of Tudor 

Sleazy Parisian electro, noirish Australian folk-rock, and intoxicating Turkish world beat

Wednesday, Mar 27 2002
Four years after Miss Kittin & the Hacker dominated European dance floors with their Champagne EP, the Grenoble-born electromantic duo has arrived in the States with First Album. Those who somehow overlooked Miss Kittin's notorious X-rated hit "Frank Sinatra" now receive a second chance. "Frank Sinatra" is certainly the best introduction to Miss Kittin & the Hacker, as well as the Munich-based label International Deejay Gigolos, which demands style, sleaze, and glamour of all its artists. The song embodies Kittin and Hacker's minimalist techno aesthetic -- rigid, robotic dance beats embellished by oscillating warbles and sci-fi flourishes, hinged on the icy, somewhat laconic delivery of Miss Kittin. "You know Frank Sinatra? He's dead," she purrs, breaking into a throaty laugh that ends as quickly as it begins. "Being famous is so nice," she continues amidst a prancing beat, "Suck my deeck/ Kees my ass." Oddly, Miss Kittin's explicit demands are less vulgar than the simple mantra "Frank, Frank, Frank Sinatra," which her tone and thick accent render completely unseemly, albeit alluring.

The rest of the album is similarly charged, with varying degrees of success. On "Stripper," Hacker creates sawlike whines and punchy static as a lackadaisical Miss Kittin explains that her girlfriend is a stripper in a Swiss peep show. In "Stock Exchange," Hacker sprays an electronic wash of sound as crisp and clean as expensive cologne, as Kittin details her lifestyle of trading in men who trade. On "Nurse," she states the obvious, that she is a nurse in a disco. (The resuscitating effect Miss Kittin may single-handedly have on the electro genre is exemplified by the nurse's uniform she frequently wears onstage.) Beyond all the aural satisfaction, First Album also includes a video for "1982," a song that more than adequately justifies Kittin and Hacker's obsession with bygone modes. Of course, nothing quite compares to the wonders of the flesh ... yet. Miss Kittin & the Hacker perform on Wednesday, March 27 at the Great American Music Hall with Memory Systems, Cybrid, and Robotronik opening at 8:30 p.m. Ticket price is $12.50; call 885-0750.

Brooding on the undeniable pain of love, the American poet James Vincent Cunningham wrote that it is "like an old brandy after a long rain, distinguished and familiar and aloof." Certainly Sir would concur. The Australian duo's debut record, The Night I Met My Second Wife, is a slow, somber rumination on the heart's descent -- not surprising, considering it marks the end of the 10-year relationship and clandestine matrimony of band particulars Elizabeth Downey and Jesse Shepherd.

Second Wife opens with a sustained synth note, followed by Downey's doleful, pillow-soft voice and her delicate, imprecise acoustic guitar. "You're never lonesome," she quietly sings as Shepherd's keyboard notes cradle her own, "because you're so handsome." Downey's tender resignation lies in a shimmer of keys, as she sings, "When I saw you on the street, I had to let you pass." She repeats the lonesome/handsome dichotomy like a hymn, rolling the idea around her sleepy mind again and again, as the song trails into tones of gray. In the following song, Shepherd's organ draws on the melancholy menace of the ghost keyboardist in Herk Harvey's Carnival of Souls, but Downey remains stately and calm as she presents the root of Sir's success: "I'm lonely and you are lonely too/ And I like it/ I like to feel low." Sir, like Thomas Aquinas, seems to believe that we feel true love for a thing in whose absence we find pain, and that sublimation grows in the hollow. Certainly, that concept is true of this album's lingering farewells, which find Shepherd sighing at last, "I have forgotten the girl of my dreams," amid soft harmonic drones and distant submarine bleeps. While Sir's noirish grain and deep blue hue have drawn abundant comparisons to trip hop act Portishead, Sir's songs are at once more precise and more natural than anything offered by the Bristol trio. Leonard Cohen, with his patient limpidity and long-suffering tone, is a more likely progenitor -- if the sound of loss were to need such a thing. Sir performs on Friday, March 29 at the Edinburgh Castle with Timonium at 9 p.m. Ticket price is $5; call 885-4074.

Born in Turkey to a musical family, Omar Faruk Tekbilek studied with masters of Turkish music before relocating to the United States in 1976, where he was quickly recognized as one of the finest Middle Eastern musicians on the continent. A virtuoso of the ney (bamboo flute), the zurna (double-reed oboe), the baglama (long-necked lute), and multiple percussion instruments, Tekbilek is also blessed with a voice as rich and intoxicating as betel nut. Over the years, he has won numerous U.S. Golden Belly Musician of the Year Awards, as well as contributing to the work of such artists as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Simon Shaheen, Bill Laswell, Don Cherry, and Ginger Baker. Tonight, Tekbilek celebrates the release of his 13th album, Alif (Love Supreme), a collection of 12 folkloric songs that explore love's many faces, including love of a romantic partner, love of the divine, and love of life and family. On Alif, multi-instrumentalist Steve Shahen, Spanish guitar sensation José Antonio Rodríguez Muñoz, and master vocalists from Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, and Persia will join Tekbilek's ensemble, but it is Tekbilek who shines, in both style and sentiment. Omar Faruk Tekbilek performs on Sunday, March 31 at Justice League at 8 p.m. Ticket price is $15; call 440-0409.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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