Last weekend, Nina Kraviz kicked off her Australian tour in Melbourne alongside трип label mate Bjarki and Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann, and the internet has been awash with heated discussion about her set ever since.
If you missed the drama as it unfolded, here’s the Cliff Notes version: some people didn’t like how eclectic Nina’s track selection was, claiming she didn’t play any “techno” (a cardinal sin in Melbourne, apparently) and that she didn’t sound anything like she is “supposed” to sound. Others argued that her entire set was techno in its truest sense, despite the fact it wasn’t three hours of dark four-to-the-floor bangers, and that Kraviz was in her usual fine form. For the record, inthemix’s resident techno nerd ANDREW WOWK was in the latter camp. Here’s why…
Anyone who has followed Nina’s development as a DJ, producer and label head over the last several years would be keenly aware of how wide-ranging her influences are, and how she injects those influences into both her productions and DJ sets. It’s never been particularly strange to hear an old IDM/ambient track, some weird breakbeat, or even some booty and ghetto tech in her sets. Even in her more “linear” or “standard” techno selections you can easily pick out those various influences.
Another issue is that Nina’s profile has exploded over the last 18 to 24 months in conjunction with the wider growth in popularity of techno in the underground scene in general.
Consequently, many people who are trying to earn cred and show off how “underground” they are have started jumping on the techno bandwagon, calling themselves fans of the more popular techno DJs whose names they are seeing floating about the internet (often based on maybe a 30 second YouTube clip of one track from a set), and not actually bothering to research them any further to see if they actually like them.
If you can’t be bothered educating yourself on the nuances of an artist, how can you be surprised when what they play live isn’t what you expected?
While techno has become more popular, it’s only one very specific type of techno which is really blowing up. This is what is cheekily called “Berghain-techno”, affectionately named after the kind of dark, grinding, hypnotic sounds played by the Berlin clubs residents. Now don’t get me wrong, I, just like lots of people, love a good heads-down, lights-off, brain-melting rave. There’s a reason the “Berghain style” has gained so much attention: it’s great.
But the objective reality is that techno is so much more than just that. You have artists like Ben Sims and James Ruskin whose UK heritage heavily influences their taste, creating a more percussive, groove-led style. You have artists like Lucy and Perc, who take things into weird, almost experimental territory. Boys Noize and Jensen Interceptor have an almost old-school electro flavour to their sound. Then you have the likes of Vince Watson and Shlømo, who create densely-layered melodic trips that feature lush, beautiful chords.
“If you’re showing up to a techno party without doing some research, then you really don’t have any right to complain that someone didn’t fit into your incorrect definition of a genre”
If all you choose to listen to is the one type of techno which is easily accessible due to its current popularity, then you are only getting one very narrow slice of the entire pie. Not every techno DJ is going to play that specific sound (nor should they), and if you’re showing up to a techno party without doing some research, then you really don’t have any right to complain that someone didn’t fit into your incorrect definition of a genre.
Now, let me finish by making something abundantly clear: There’s nothing wrong with critiquing a DJ. Constructive criticism, in-depth discussion and honest appraisal are extremely important to the overall growth of a scene and perfectly fair game. However, to be able to engage in constructive criticism, in-depth discussion and honest appraisal you need to be well-educated on the subject matter, as well as able to articulate yourself clearly.
Claiming someone “sucked” because they didn’t play the small microcosm of a genre that you think is all that exemplifies that particular genre is just plain ignorant and makes you look like the idiot, not the DJ you’re bashing.
Andrew Wowk is a Sydney-based writer and DJ. You can argue with him on Twitter.