There’s something about the post-Christmas period that draws out the best in techno. With scant to look forward to but an encroaching overdraft and the bitterest onslaught of Winter weather, there is a certain reflective solace to be found in the similarly bleak soundscapes that have evolved from Detroit’s founding blueprints.
2014 saw Pangaea fit the bill with a stunning FabricLive mix. This year it is Nina Kraviz that is filling our yearning void with her entry onto the DJ Kicks series, with a selection that mirrors the juxtaposition of starkness with warmth found in her own productions and garnishing with snippets of her vocals.
On face value, the premise of deadpan European drawl over the top of an acutely selected playlist would draw parallels with Miss Kittin’s Radio Caroline. However, the intrusion of Kraviz over the tracks is near imperceptible and the selection is determinedly single minded in comparison to Hervé’s tiptoe through esoteric electronica.
The session is quite a departure from the usual DJ Kicks entry, being neither the dramatic tour of tempo and emotions carved out by Talabot‘s mix, nor Breach’s rather templated jaunt through modish house. Instead, a laser focused trek through some of the barest minimal techno is the path that is taken.
It is possibly one of the purest examples of minimal in execution in quite some time, with the minimal name now far too readily associated with M_NUS’s flattening of the sound since its mid-2000s moment in the spotlight. Far from being the soulless interchangeable components that roll out of the Hawtin factory nowadays, Nina’s selections mirror her own productions; starkly rhythmic but with a momentum that exists in the spaces between, writing away from the time signature at every given opportunity.
With 29 tracks on display, there is little room for showcasing. Instead elements drift in and out over the top of a never faltering kick as it shifts from wooden to throbbing to boxy. Elements sneak in almost unseen; ghostly tendrils – the opening “Mystery” by Kraviz herself and subtle dropping of Goldie’s “Truth” – snake their way through, machine driven basslines – the pairing of Bjarki’s “Revolution” with another Nina moment in “IMPRV“ – perforate layers of concrete glamour and tweeter shattering skeletal midrange – notably the section kicking in from Breaker 1 2’s awesome “In The Distance” – angularly elbow their way in. It’s thoroughly shoulder shaking narcotic through and through.
The dimension does not shift until the final strains of the mix, Kraviz holds you in a vice like grip until that point. The galactic disco strains of Freak Electrique’s “Parsec” is the first Rumble Fish flash of colour to a then monochrome world, the often dropped but always welcome “OI” by Plaid draws more emotion from the machine, while contemplative acid dreaminess through Porn Sword Tobacco & SVN’s “Complaints A“ and an early climax from Adam Beyer’s “Pattern 1“ all combine to shake you from a meticulously constructed narcosis.
Then, as swiftly as this blossoming unfurls, the rug is drawn from your feet by Aphex Twin in Polygon Window guise, beginning a soul searching downtempo trio that makes you wither into yourself. Like the purgatory of unrequited love and inverted schadenfreude that ends Being John Malkovich, it is the most bittersweet of endings to another accomplished entry in the DJ Kicks series.
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