Nina Kraviz is the first of our electronic heroines .
Nina Kraviz has come in from the cold of her Siberian upbringing to become one of the most hotly rated artists on the contemporary techno landscape. She remains staunchly independent and uncompromising in her vision, both on the DJ booth and the studio, but also as boss of her own Trip label. It is now a fully formed family with its own unique sound, and one of the reasons the lady behind it is very much a modern electronic heroine.
The first time I saw Nina Kraviz DJ was in the hull of a small docked boat in Paris back in July 2010. It was a year after her first release. Her selections were quality if not random, drawing on various deep house scenes that did just enough. The mixing, frankly, was jarring, and though people danced, there was no sense this was someone with her own personality in the booth. At that point, it very much seemed as though she had been booked off the back of her early standout tunes on Rekids and Underground Quality, rather than for any dizzying DJ skill or strong musical identity.
Eight years later, the opposite is true: Kraviz is one of the most notable DJs of the day. Playing a near relentless schedule that takes her from super-sized main stage to super-sized main stage—quite often in the same night—she plays with a genuine sense of self. Her mixing is adventurous and effortless, her selections initially honed in on a love of acid, Detroit techno and sleazy Dance Mania before more recently crystallising as her distinctive brand of techno. Of course, her sets are filled with curveballs that have, stupidly, drawn the ire of uneducated crowds who don’t expect her to be as esoteric as she is.
The most famous such occasion was in Melbourne in 2016. “They wanted three hours of long steady beat narrative, and I offered something that didn't match their expectations,” she said at the time in a lengthy Facebook statement. “But surprisingly the most negative comments I got for playing that one wild track with a drum & bass segment in the end." The crowd and their tunnel vision view of what a techno DJ should be is to blame here, and you also suspect there’s a little sexism going on: it’s hard to imagine Marcel Dettmann getting the same shit for daring to stray outside the lines. Hell, DJs like Martyn have long been lauded for being wholly unpredictable in the booth.
It would be easy for Kraviz to have cashed in on her success; to dumb down her sounds and turn out lowest common denominator main room shite like so many of her male peers who now have their own triumphant, season-long parties in Ibiza, for example. Instead, she doesn’t have a big team around her, which means she makes all her own decisions based on artistic merit rather than management pressure. This allows her to continue to disappear ever deeper down her own distinctive rabbit hole while remaining hard to predict. That’s what keeps real music heads happy and continues to con fuddle the casual crowds.
Nina's label, Trip was launched in 2014.
She’s also created and nurtured a scene around her via her weird and wonderful трип label. Taking sole charge of the A&R, she has given a fascinating platform to challenging, rather than heavily supported, artists both old and new. It’s music that sounds like little else out there and has made the label a family affair rather than posture project designed only to strengthen brand Kraviz (which it does, of course, but on credible terms). Rather than racing out the odd hyped-up single, plenty of трип artists have released a number of times on the label, with some even turning out albums. What’s more, the material they give Kraviz often makes up 50% or more of her sets.
It makes them ever more personal and singular affairs. It means they can be fast and furious flurries of drums and percussion or more sublime and subliminal rhythms, but always somehow connected with a texture and emotion that is all her own. Her brilliantly coherent and cohesive DJ-kicks mix, for example, played out a like a radio transmission from an isolated planet and is what kick started this most recent and exciting chapter in her story. Since that point, Kraviz has stood proud of the crowd and proved herself to be an uncompromising electronic heroine.