Nina Kraviz was always destined for the spotlight. From the moment Radio Slave used his Fabric #48 mix to unveil her pulsating track ‘Pain In the Ass’, which fused Kraviz’s sultry deadpan vocals with hypnotic synthlines and a thumping beat, it seemed a question of when, and not if, the Siberian producer would attain the ubiquity that now has her modelling for Hugo Boss. Sure, her stunning beauty can’t have hurt when it came to getting noticed, but her productions spoke for themselves. From the intimate ambience of her ‘First Time’ EP on Jus-Ed’s Underground Quality label to her more robust output on the Rekids imprint, Kraviz captivated listeners with tracks that traversed cerebral house and more vigorous techno soundscapes. It came as no surprise that Kraviz was soon in great demand, playing the foremost nightclubs in the world and conducting press interviews in a bubble bath. (If you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?)
Club culture being what it is, the likes of Seth Troxler were quick to lampoon Kraviz, as she encountered the downside of being an attractive woman with the temerity to play a male-dominated game that entails plenty of self-promotion. It is against this backdrop that Kraviz released ‘Mr Jones’, her first outing since her debut album dropped early last year.
‘Desire’ kickstarts the EP with immediate impetus. The first element of sound that greets listeners is Kraviz’s voice, which is looped to resemble a breath, a pant that arrives a split-second ahead of a driving beat that propels the track throughout its twelve-minute duration. The sort of club weapon that Kraviz’s partner Ben Klock unleashes upon late-night dancefloors, ‘Desire’ is an excursion in carnal techno where the obligatory sensual vocal snippet avoids the pitfall of sounding contrived or overly self-aware. In this context, it forms an essential part of an invitation to get down and dance – an invitation that is hard to refuse.
Kraviz changes gears on the atmospheric title-track ‘Mr Jones’, a more restrained house outing that she first laid down in ’08. Both the original and an updated refashioning are available on this digital package, though there isn’t a radical difference between the two versions. While one’s interest in Kraviz’s elucidation of her meeting Mr Jones wears thin after one – let alone two – versions, it is still an interesting listen, especially for those with a proclivity for off-kilter house. The sparseness of ‘Mr Jones’ doesn’t quite match up to the kinetic force of the EP opener, but the same cannot be said for the Luke Hess collaboration ‘Remember’, which ramps up the bpm and confirms that Kraviz is equally adept at crafting full-throttle techno as she is at creating the moody house that imbued her album. Featuring vocals from both Hess and Kraviz that were apparently inspired by “a very old poem”, ‘Remember’ is a prime soundtrack for night driving or dark dancefloors, conjuring the Motor City as humming and hissing synths consume the lyrics and build to a crescendo.
‘Black White’ is an older Kraviz track that ardent fans will note appeared on her rare 2009 promo mix for Underground Quality’s label night at the now defunct Berlin club Tape (it also featured on Australian duo Diatribe’s Inverted Audio mix the following year for that matter). Initially shaping as an ethereal house cut reminiscent of the Underground Quality stable, ‘Black White’ transforms after reaching the three-minute mark through the introduction of polka influenced melodies, evolving into Kraviz’s most adventurous and arguably enthralling offering on this EP. ‘So Wrong’ is one for house purists, an immersive descent into deep, hypnotic soundscapes that are suffused with Kraviz’s soulful vocals, which subsist as a loop throughout the track. The EP culminates with another 2008 cut ‘Sheer’, a sparse, slow-burning techno sketch that features elements Kraviz would re-explore in her later productions – for instance; she would implement the high-pitched siren-like whistling melodies more dynamically in her b-side ‘Tanya’. It would have been a shame if Kraviz had left older tracks such as ‘Sheer’ unreleased, as these early Kraviz tracks gives ‘Mr Jones’ a duality that affirms how accomplished she was when she first entered the production fray.
The lack of obvious development on most of the tracks on the EP might not work for some listeners, but Kraviz’s oeuvre operates via subtle melodies and nuanced arrangements that steadily disarm listeners. She inhabits a distinct sphere, crafting visceral house and techno from analogue tools while veering between presenting herself as a sexual provocateur and a more ambiguous, apprehensive protagonist. These different sides of her sonic persona are apparent on ‘Mr Jones’, a release that reinforces that Kraviz is one of the most engaging producers to emerge over the past five years. After all the aspersions levelled at Nina since she indulged in that bubble bath, ‘Mr Jones’ is a resounding reminder that Kraviz deserves to be at the forefront of the club milieu on merit alone.