Let's face it: the idea of Misstress Barbara switching from lipstick fembot techno dominatrix to bona fide synth-pop chanteuse is a ridiculous one. From her early '90s beginnings—first on the inchoative Montreal rave scene, then on the international level via circuit parties and Ibiza orgies—Barbara was always associated with the relentless side of techno. This magnetic aura is precisely what attracted her, according to early interviews, to the genre in the first place. That said, the Barcelona and Don't Leave EPs, both released in 2007, showcased an aesthetic shift hinted at by her Come With Me mixed CD, a compilation that featured the likes of Sebo K, Trentemøller, Nahan Fake and Dominik Eulberg.
Fast forward to early 2009, and Misstress Barbara's comeback single is starting to float around. Weirdly enough, it sounds like "Barcelona" with awkward vocals on top. Even more troubling: It's a Leonard Cohen cover. That said, "Dance Me to the End of Love" is not as terrible as the idea sounds. (It's definitely not as painful as Miss Kittin & The Hacker's current take on "Suspicious Minds.") But Barbara's voice is, unsurprisingly, a bit flat, a fact that is unfortunately backed up by the banality of the lyrical content of I'm No Human, her first official album as a singer. The title track and "J'étais une fleur" are especially worth mentioning for their cringe-inducing powers (especially if you understand French).
No wonder, then, she felt the need to bring proper vocalists on board to alleviate the pressure. Bjorn (of Peter Bjorn and John fame), fellow Montrealer and soft-rocker Sam Roberts and the spunky Brazilian Girls all turn up; yet this unexpected display of friendship (unless these are the result of efficiently calculated record industry connections) turns out to be a poisonous gift in the end. A DJ-turned-singer such as Tiga understood a long time ago that no matter how many different collaborators you bring to the table with you to record your artist album, they should always help bring out the best in you—not make you sound plain and pale in comparison.
"Is It OK," with its strident pads à la Trentemøller, and album-closer "Talk to Me" are decent pop songs with decorative strings and jovial horns, but they will not help further Misstress Barbara's DJing career, nor will they take her on top of the charts. One could pertinently ask, then: what's the point? Even the bouncing "Four on the Floor," which has the type of thrilling exuberance usually associated with Thin White Duke remixes, can't do much to salvage its surroundings: As outstanding as it is in such a context, it only enhances that fact that I'm No Human is a techno-pop album that will be perceived as anecdotal at best, i.e. a half-funny distraction to listen to between DJ sets. Misstress Barbara might not be human, but on the basis of her first long player, she ain't that much of a singer either.
Tracklist: Misstress Barbara - I'm No Human01. i'm no human
02. is it ok feat. Sweet Bjorn Yttling
03. dance me to the end of love
04. four on the floor
05. push pull
08. j' étais une fleur
09. i'm running feat. Sam Roberts
10. four days apart
11. talk to me feat. Brazilian Girls