Nina Kraviz: Kraviz Craves
Not everyone gets Nina Kraviz. Just a day or so before our phone interview, she is drawing flak from club-goers in Melbourne (where she resides still) for not playing ‘enough techno’ at a recent gig. Her lengthy Facebook riposte cites several enterprising track selections designed to hit hard within a “broader spectrum” of techno. “Quite possibly they wanted 3 hours of long steady beat narrative and I offered something that didn't match their expectations” she adds. “I grew up with a slightly different concept about music as one big sonic space with everything wired into each other….I believe that music is about freedom of expression and a perfect tool to connect people of a different kind.”
What is clear in chatting with Kraviz today – as it was when we last spoke, in 2011 – is her own passionate connection to electronic music. But also, as illustrated by her latest new social media commentary, a constructive, perfectly reasonable ambition to open minds on the dancefloor; and beyond. On occasion, the combination has ruffled industry feathers and sparked confusion; controversy, even, in the eyes of certain pundits. Whether expressing a dislike of overly-clinical, overly-clean DJ mixes or using passages of spoken word on her own mix albums (as per last year’s DJ Kicks offering), Kraviz has continually raised eyebrows and questions. But isn’t this the point of an authentic, forward-thinking artist?
Kraviz’s new mix for Fabric – the legendary club brand’s 91st – is arguably her most edgy and inspired compilation curation yet. Spanning everything from little-known Nineties-era Russian IDM (Species of Fishes, New Composers & Peter Namlook) to deep Minneapolis acid (DJ ESP, AKA Woody McBride) through various shades of European techno (Belgium’s DJ Tuttle, Italy’s Automatic Sound Unlimited, Dutch pioneers Unit Moebius and, as AFX, UK institution Aphex Twin), collectors’ rarities (for example, Frak’s First Snow In Harlem) and several exclusives on Kraviz’ трип label (including her own unreleased productions), Fabric 91 interweaves its dual light and dark narratives beautifully, and delivers a hugely expansive take on the techno genre.
“The body of the mix is actually driven by acid music in all of its different types” Kraviz urges. “It is psychedelic in parts, ambient and then groovy. It is many different things but always trippy…always a trip. I wanted to make an essential statement here – mixes don’t need to be linear; it’s fine when they are but the DJ can make things even more interesting. Like in a club, a DJ should be able to stop and move between different moods and ideas as they need to. This can make the experience more interesting, and more powerful.”
Fabric 91 is also, she claims, a summary of her “wild and colourful background;” of the many different musical and emotional phases of her life to date. “Recording this album was a major challenge, as it is whenever I record a mix. These projects see an artist making a musical position. But I have a hyperactive personality, there is always lots going on. At the same time, I’ve had a lot of different artistic periods – funk, disco, electronic. These have all been within the sphere of techno but connecting everything together was incredibly difficult. I played out 35 different takes of the Fabric mix before deciding on a final cut.”
Ultimately, Kraviz fed the best parts – snippets and whole sections – of those countless takes into one definitive 74-minute mix. She concedes that the end product is “glued together” but where her various sets were recorded live and her meshing them together was wholly instinctive we are left with a raw, experimental journey that crackles rather than crashes. This is vivid, engaging music-making.
Originally asked for her views on releasing a Fabric mix so soon after the London nightclub’s closure, Kraviz commented: “It’s pretty sad that it’s happening. A number of us are still hoping that it can avoid permanent closure but we need a miracle. I’m not best placed to speak on the specific detail. If Fabric does close, there are lots of reasons for it happening.” Since then - and upon the immediate point of going to press – Fabric owners have successfully negotiated a compromise of tough new licensing conditions under which they can legally re-open. “It’s incredible news!” Kraviz types in a subsequent email exchange with me, literally seconds before hitting the stage in Japan for four hours. “It’s great, great news.”
Regardless, however, of Fabric’s doors being open or closed, Kraviz sees a bigger picture. “We’re facing a big change in the world…an evolution. There are different people involved; everything is affected” she suggests in our initial phone conversation. “I used to be a medical student before the music and we’d learn on human cadavers. You quickly realise that nothing in the human body is separate, and that makes you appreciate that everything in life is connected; everything is one” she suggests. “However, I don’t believe one order changes in a few seconds. We change things gradually…continually, with passion and love. Fabric, in that sense, is a great example. The club has created ripples over many years; it has helped many artists and will continue to help them, because of the impact it has had in our lives.”
None less so that Kraviz’s: “I remember getting my first booking at Fabric when I was younger. It was a crucial point for me. The energy that it gave me to go forwards was incredible; it really pushed me on. It’s the same story for a lot of different DJs and artists – it was a pivotal moment for their careers too. And when you get asked to do a Fabric CD, that means you’re really doing good. That mix series has been amazing. It has touched so many styles and sounds, and educated people all over the world. Fabric has been a guiding light. But Fabric is more than a great club; together with the mix series it has become an institution.” Institutions live loudly on in hearts and minds – this, many would agree, is the club scene’s true foundation; not its bricks and mortar…
The album DJ Kicks: Nina Kraviz is out through !K7 Records
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