Barbara Panther's self-titled debut is an album that needs no introduction - already a darling of the Guardian's music pages, Panther is seemingly all anyone in the music biz has been able to talk about for months. She's quickly earned comparisons to Grace Jones, Kate Bush and Björk - so does the Rwandan-born singer's first effort live up to the hype?

The album definitely goes some way to justifying those comparisons - vocally Panther sounds very similar to Björk, with Bush's linguistic eccentricities. "English isn't my first language, so I'm able to choose my words", she's been quoted as saying. The similarities with Grace Jones are both visual - the two share a strikingly similar quirky style - and present in the beat driven electro that is at turns dark, threatening, and compelling. However, while comparisons to other female artists do bear out, that's not to say Panther's sound isn't unique - this is an aural experiment and a large part of the album's appeal is the guarantee that you won't have heard anything quite like this before.

On her MySpace page, Panther lists her genre as "Other", and there's a very good reason for this: her style defies all attempts at categorization. Aggressive hip hop on album opener 'Rise Up' gives way to the almost bubblegum pop of 'Moonlight People'; touches of psycehdelia and even folk flavour tracks on the latter half of the record. The one constant underpinning the sound is German-inspired electro - Panther moved to Berlin five years ago after first discovering the genre, and began her career working with djs and producers she met in clubs there. Because of this, most tracks on this upbeat offering are highly danceable.

Lyrically, Panther tackles some tough subjects. Although her family fled the Rwandan genocide when she was just three (they settled in Brussels, though Panther and her siblings were then adopted by seperate Belgian families) she is clearly affected by her homeland's history of violent oppression and her anger shows through on 'Voodoo' ("Every night I pray like a bitch/That one day the poor will eat the rich") and the frankly terrifying 'Rise Up', which combines the unmistakable sound of clanking chains with an ominous rallying cry of "Rise up - by any means necessary". Elsewhere, the thorny issue of religion and spirituality is raised on debut single 'Empire'; while 'Dizzy' is a light-hearted love song.

Overall, there's a fine line between eclectic and schizophrenic, and it's up to listeners to decide whether this scattered approach to music crosses it, and whether or not that's any bad thing. What's undeniable though is that this piece of experimental pop is something unique, and that this woman of many voices is likely to have one that strikes a chord with everyone. Definitely worth a spin.

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