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Felix da Housecat

Early electro, the '80s rap cousin that helped spawn both synth-pop and techno, was kinda clumsy. Infectious and freaky, yes, but because of the nature of the early beatboxes, the primal stuff -- Newcleus, the Jonzun Crew, Soulsonic Force -- lumbered along with the agility of Frankenstein. Complex rhythmic momentum was difficult to create, and the relatively rudimentary circuitry made said momentum hard to maintain.

But electro has evolved, and although it's moved in and out of favor, the past half-decade has seen a gradual resurgence. It's huge in Europe, and the classics are being reissued stateside.

Felix da Housecat's exuberant new record, Kittenz and thee Glitz, peppers its electro with Chicago house and Detroit techno, and the result is a giddy amalgam. Its beats -- agile, greasy thumps and handclaps -- serve as a heavenly bed over which French vocalist Miss Kittin charms her suitors with a straight face and a monotonal glee: "Happy hour, sun shower, 808s give you power," she sings on "Happy Hour," and although she curbs her enthusiasm (she's not your typical Chicago house diva), her understated, dry delivery is still sensual and celebratory.

It's hard to tell, though, where irony ends and homage begins, tough to determine whether the record's a deliberately superficial meta-party platter or whether it's just a big dumb celebration of dance-floor joy.

Either way, Glitz is a hoot. The record explodes with cheesy synthesizer melody plinks and beatbox plonks, laser-gun textures and an over-the-top drama that, on perfect Kittinless instrumentals such as "Magic Fly" and "Control Freaq," creates a specific kind of synthetic elation. When Kittin, who has her own record out with the Hacker called First Album, wonders, "What does it feel like feel like, to feel like a socialite?" you can hear traces of both sociological curiosity and envy in her voice. Or does she just want to get paid? It's hard to tell and harder still to care, because the record's more fun when you forget about the analysis and concentrate on the bliss.

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Randall Roberts
Contact: Randall Roberts

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