Nina Kraviz DJ-Kicks
The Russian selector transcends the hype while delivering an excellent mix.
For those who came to Nina Kraviz via the wild media circus that follows her every move, rather than as a result of their own musical enquiries, it could be easy to write her off. But that would be wrong. The constant coverage she elicits—intentionally or not—on lifestyle websites, thanks in part to her Hugo Boss photo shoots, the drawn-out bathgate saga, and her non-stop tour of the world’s biggest clubs and festivals, can easily make her seem like another vacuous, big-name tech-house DJ. But the former “cosmonaut teeth fixer” has never been anything like that, and surely never will.
Flicking through Kraviz’s back catalog, it’s clear that she has a real musical persona that is hugely idiosyncratic. Her music is as intimate and insecure as it is deeply personal, and her earliest wares on Underground Quality and Rekids have stood the test of time as she herself has grown ever more prominent around the world. Ratter than abandoning her ideals, Kraviz has honed them further, growing into as accomplished and stylized of a DJ as she is a producer. Her penchant for Dance Mania is well documented, as is her love of acid, and those things, together with her own isolated sense of groove—which perhaps comes from growing up in the Siberian wilderness, tuned into far-off musical words via distant radio frequencies—now permeates her every set.
And that is exactly the case with her entry into the hallowed DJ-Kicks mix series. Where many producers use such an opportunity to showcase their breadth of musical knowledge, Kraviz’s mix feels much more like a showcase of her DJ style (though her own label does feature heavily). Instead of chucking in as many different sounds, scenes, and styles as she can into an ultimately disjointed trip, Kraviz takes her time in nailing a perfectly arcing techno groove from start to finish. So much so, in fact, that the for the first 10 minutes she will not be hurried, and remains resolutely focused on setting a perfectly bleak atmosphere with small, rolling kicks and depth-charged sonar pulses. It’s a patient but captivating start.
From there, the layering and subtle gear changes begin: this is most definitely not a 29-track megamix. The kicks become more flat-footed and insistent, Kraviz’s own curious whispers bleed into the mix, and percussive patterns being to flail more widely. In time, there is acid, minimalism, and even some lovely posh trance, with each new twist more engaging and energetic than the last. Amongst records from Population One, DJ Bone, and Armando are lesser-known treasures from artists on her own трип label, not to mention selections from drum & bass and IDM folklore (Goldie and Aphex Twin), but teasing them all apart is a tough job. Every transition here is smooth as silk. Nothing feels hurried and the whole mix has a great sense of pace and control to it so that, come the end, listeners will feel as though they have been lost in Kraviz’s seductive grooves for much longer than an hour.