How much do you really know about Nina Kraviz? She’s a Russian techno DJ, an accomplished producer, one of dance music’s breakthrough names of the last five years. True enough, but there’s so much more to her story than that. She’s one of electronic music’s most interesting characters, someone who has stuck to her musical guns since day one, someone who has wide-ranging roots that run deep in the past, yet she’s also the embodiment of the future. Her signature sound is a raw blend of house and techno with a very acidic feel. If that feels very now, Kraviz has a lot to do with it, which is why she was asked to mix the latest instalment of !K7’s landmark ‘DJ Kicks’ series.
The result is up there with the best in the ‘DJ Kicks’ back catalogue. It’s a sublimely crafted set, deep and trippy, like you’ve tuned into a mysterious pirate radio station in the dead of the night or stumbled across a stream from an illegal party. Almost half of the tracks are exclusives from Kraviz’s трип label, including three of her own: ‘Mystery’, ‘IMPRV’ and ‘Prozimokompleme’. They have a raw, minimalistic stripped down feel that’s clearly inspired by her Chicago and Detroit roots, sharing the same first take vibe. If you want evidence of what a force she is within techno, there’s your evidence right there. Elsewhere, the mix ranges from the spooked voodoo techno of ‘The Vibe’ by DJ Bone to the slightly mad electronics of ‘Bradley’s Robot’ by Bradley Strider (an Aphex Twin alias); from the spooked acid of ‘Pleasure Dome’ by Armando to Goldie’s atmospheric masterpiece ‘Truth’, featuring David Bowie. Speaking about the latter, Kraviz says: “The mix contains lots of vocals. Words spoken in the most spooky and at times almost inaudible way. They come from nowhere and disappear into the music. This is like many of my own productions where I use vocals and verbal loops to achieve this trippy, going nowhere effect. ’Truth’ is a beatless song and it left a big impression on me when I first heard it in the late 90’s, along with the hour-long masterpiece of a track ‘Mother’. It was a very ambitious and brave move and a very weird album. It triggered something in me.” Other key tracks include ‘Cobalt’ by Steve Stoll. “He was one of my biggest techno inspirations with his label Proper when I was just starting out and his project Cobalt was especially influential. It had this really dreamy, hypnotic sound and plus it was one of the first ever techno records I bought in the late’ 90s.” Then there’s ‘Nuclear’ by Icelandic producer Exos and ‘Persec’ by Freak Electrique. “It gets me back to one big phase in my life where I was into Italo disco. Plus it was given to me personally by I-f. His online radio station, Intergalactic FM, was a big influence on me.” Finally, there’s ‘Atma’ by 909 Prototype. “Definitely one of my all-time favorite acid records. It’s quite obscure. I found it digging through a second hand record shop”.
Some history. Kraviz was born and raised in the Siberian city Irkutsk in Russia. Her dad is a passionate music collector and she grew up listening to jazz and psychedelic rock. In the late ’90s she heard acid classic ‘Downfall’ by Armando on the radio. It inspired her to set up her own radio show on a local station, focussing on techno, house and IDM. However, Irkutsk is about as far away from dance music’s centre of gravity as it’s possible to get, so even though she wanted to dedicate her whole life to music, studying to be a dentist in Moscow seemed like a more sensible plan. In Moscow, she spent her spare time working as a reporter for Russian music magazine Ptuch. “That opened my mind to an even wider range of music,” she says. “I started building up my own record collection that captured many of my music phases, from techno, house and space disco to rare funk and ’60s and ’70s soundtrack music that I started mixing in small clubs and bars. I also found myself a job at an event agency, throwing parties with Underground Resistance, and it was through this that I met people like Juan Atkins, something I could have only dreamed about when I was in Siberia.”
A turning point for Kraviz came in 2006 when she took part in the Red Bull Music Academy in Melbourne. “That was the place where, for the first time in my life, I started to feel confident and believe in myself” she remembers. In 2008 she started doing her own Friday night at the most important dance club in Moscow, Propaganda. It became one of the most important house and techno nights in the city. Kraviz brought in names such as Theo Parrish, Dopplereffekt, Mike Huckaby and many more. “That’s where I started to evolve as a DJ,” she says. “I built my own crowd and my sound started shaping up for real.” The same year Kraviz was signed to American DJ Jus-Ed’s Underground Quality label and released her debut single, ‘Voices’. The following year the ‘Pain In The Ass’ EP on Rekids helped push Kraviz onto the world stage. Alongside ‘I’m Gonna Get You’ and ‘Pain In The Ass, perhaps her biggest track to date is ‘Ghetto Kraviz’, her homage to Chicago’s Dance Mania label, taken from her 2012 self-titled debut album.
Kraviz shows a slightly different side with her DJ Kicks mix. “People probably know me for my Dance Mania-inspired, stripped down jacking groove style of DJing but the idea behind this particular mix was to create more of a trippy underwater vibe. A mysterious, sonic journey, inspired by the times I used to listen to late night radio growing up and imagine that all the sounds brought to me via the radio waves came directly from space.” It ranges far and wide from house to IDM, from ambient to techno, but at the same time it sounds like one story. It’s a mix full of emotion, one of the reasons people connect with Kraviz’s DJing. It feels very honest. “At the very end of the mix you can hear my spoken words in Russian that take me back to the time when I had my own night radio show,” she says. “From time to time I will pop up in the middle of the track to announce the artist or just share what’s on my mind. “Have you ever been to Reykjavik? I haven’t. But I would like to go there one day.”
How about that for off the wall. Somehow it seems to sum up Nina Kraviz perfectly. Strange, compelling, utterly unique.
Nina Kraviz DJ Kicks is released on 26 January 2015.
1. Egotrip – Dreamworld (Acapella)
2. Nina Kraviz – Mystery (DJ-Kicks)
3. Area – Broken Glass Everywhere
4. Prototype 909 – Atma
5. Goldie – Truth
6. Bjarki – Revolution
7. Nina Kraviz – IMPRV
8. Bjarki – Polygon Pink Toast
9. Population One – Bonus Beat
w/ Flatner / Ingram Project – Da Comin’ (Jay Denham RMX) Acapella
w/ Parrish Smith – 1.0 / 8.0 Afrika Genocide Acapella
10. Breaker 1 2 – In The Distance
11. Steve Stoll – Pop Song
12. Bradley Strider – Untitled
13. Stanislav Tolkachev – I Will Not Pee In The Pool
14. Armando – Pleasure Dome
15. Nina Kraviz – Prozimokompleme
16. Baby Ford – 24 HR
17. Fred P – Higher Mentalism (edit)
18. Exos – Nuclear Red Guard
19. Steve Stoll – Corona
20. Freak Electrique – Parsec
21. Population One – Out Of Control (Vocal Mix)
22. Exos & Octal – Grow
23. Porn Sword Tobacco & SVN – Complaints A
24. Plaid – Oi
25. DJ Bone – The Vibe
26. Adam Beyer pres Conceiled Project – Pattern 1
27. Polygon Window – Quino-Phec
28. Nikita Zabelin feat. dBridge – So Lonely
29. Rizhome – Corridor