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Barbara Panther – Barbara Panther

May 20, 2011 by  

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Barbara Panther – Barbara Panther

NAME: Barbara Panther
ALBUM: Barbara Panther
DATE: 16May2011

LABEL: City Slang


FIVE WORD REVIEW: All Mouth And No Dungarees


LINE UP: Barbara Panther (vocals), Matthew Herbert (production)


WHAT’S THE STORY?: Take a childhood spent first in Rwanda, then in Belgium. Add five years in Berlin. Throw in cheekbones, a piercing stare, and hair with more right angles than a GCSE maths exam. Give it a predatory, feline, sleek, dark name. Then, a healthy dollop of production from pioneering experimental electronic musician Matthew Herbert. Put it all together, and you’d really be forgiven for expecting a little more than this limp concoction.

Panther is most commonly compared to Grace Jones – this is because she is black and because of that hair, and Bjork – this is because she wheels out her best Bjork impression every chance she gets, like a child with a new magic trick. In case you hadn’t got the message, the employment of Matmos contemporary Herbert renders the intention unmistakeable – to recreate the magic ‘Verspertine’ formula.

The problem is, she doesn’t have the voice. You can imitate the little Icelander’s mannerisms but you can’t fake her preternatural lung-power. The first verse of opener ‘Rise Up’ is expressionless and verges on the amateur, and while interest is added to the refrain – and heavily flagged up in the publicity – by Herbert’s use of chains hitting an electric heater, the effect is so similar in rhythm and impact to the gunshots of MIA’s ‘Paper Planes’ that the song loses all but a fraction of its individuality.

MIA is in fact a more appropriate comparison than either Bjork or Grace – she has no great voice either, but could take this cat in a fight, just on charisma and conviction alone. She also lacks Panther’s tendency to lapse into unintentional comedy, whether via her sitcom-German accent (“it’s all in the vay you choose to start”) or the constant repetition of “lovely bottom you are” on ‘O Captain’. Apparently, she wanted to give the impression of being on board a ship, “literally feeling the wind on board”. Quite.

Herbert’s generally imaginative production rescues the project, all sub bass and buzzes, eerie carnival noises in ‘Dizzy’, plus his trademark natural samples – though the use of an accordion immediately after she sings “I am going to take you out on a very special night” in ‘Wizzard’ (yes, double z, glam fans) is a puzzling choice. Perhaps she had a Greek restaurant in mind.

When Panther sings within her limits and in her own voice, as in the choruses of ‘Unchained’ and ‘Dizzy’, you can hear her potential as a conventional pop singer-songwriter. She talks a good game too, but as a challenging unconventional feminist experimental artist, she’s all mouth and no dungarees.

SOUNDS LIKE: Bjork and MIA, but don’t let that entice you. Instead, focus on the fact that the press release refers to the artists as “Panther and Herbert”, which makes them sound like a classic kids’ cartoon programme in the making.

YOU’LL LIKE THIS IF: You pay more attention to – at the time of writing – just about every other blogger to have featured her.


Submitted By Martin Headon



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