- Despite covering quintessential mainstream '80s anthems early in their career, and then displaying a shiny synth-pop panache on The First Album in 2001, what was always striking about Miss Kittin and The Hacker—both as producers and DJs—was their strong sense of connection to the techno tradition. Whereas various friends from the early days found inspiration in cold wave (Crossover, Mount Sims), Italo (Kiko), EBM (David Carretta, Terrence Fixmer) or anything from house and acid to hip-house and pop (Tiga), Caroline Hervé and Michel Amato have remained faithful to their techno roots, constantly citing Laurent Garnier, Jeff Mills, Drexciya and early Aphex Twin as major influences.
Take album opener "The Womb," which has a syncopated, robotic feel that sets the tone of what's to follow: Nothing has really changed for the Grenoble duo, but then again, nothing is ever the same either. This tale of a woman "coming from the underground" and "climbing the social ladder" on her own obviously echoes their own "Stock Exchange"'s main protagonist, but this time, their brand of techno noir is more immediate, seeming less calculated and somewhat rounder. The same can be said about current single "PPPO," with its submarine-like bleeps and abyssal bass line, and "Party in My Head," probably the catchiest and poppiest thing on here.
In fact, the only embarrassing moment on Two is their take on Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds." Built on a sole borborygmic synth line and celestial background pads, the track has, musically speaking, the type of timelessness only The Hacker can provide. But the cover heavily relies on a vocal performance that clumsily tries to recapture the bittersweet feelings at the heart of the original; sadly, Miss Kittin, whose voice can convey complex emotions such as scorned love and understood jealousy exceptionally well, somehow sounds too contrived for its own good here.
In comparison, "Ray Ban" and "Emotional Interlude" are more successful at ditching the so-called deadpan voice that she trademarked at the height of electroclash for something subtly refined. And with "Indulgence," Hervé gleefully reunites with the angst and anger she once displayed on collaborations with T. Raumschmiere and ends up sounding like she is channeling the ghost of Debbie Harry (she is dead, right?) in the midst of thunderous guitar-like patterns: Both in sound and execution, this is the most punk thing The Hacker has ever produced, and it is Two's most unexpected moment.
In the end, Two isn't a massive step forward, but it isn't a step backward either. "Suspicious Minds" aside, though, there is an air of self-confidence emanating from the songs collected on here that wasn't present eight years ago. With DJ Hell recently releasing the best album of his long-running career, and Tiga finally blending his acid with a side of pop to perfection, you could say Miss Kittin & The Hacker's comeback couldn't come at a better time. But that would be missing the point they've been trying to make all along: Satisfaction doesn't always come from constant evolution, but also from stern dedication.
01. The Womb
03. 1000 Dreams
05. Party in my Head
07. Emotional Interlude
08. Suspicious Minds
09. Electronic City
10. Inutile Éternité
11. Ray Ban
12. 1000 Dreams (Reprise)