This month Nina Kraviz learned what happens when you drop drum & bass to a techno crowd. At smalltown in Melbourne, the Siberian selector played what she described as a “spontaneous, eclectic yet coherent set” – and quickly incurred the wrath of a handful of angry audience members, who were apparently upset she didn’t play three hours of steady beat techno. So to find out how Nina handled the next set of her Australian tour at Chinese Laundry in Sydney, we sent ITM’s resident techno nerd ANDREW WOWK down to watch. Here’s his review.
It’s a really good time to be a techno fan in Sydney. Countless internationals are making their way through the city, and last weekend it was трип label head Nina Kraviz, current techno darling Bjarki, and Moog master Stephan Bodzin’s turn at Chinese Laundry. Between the three of them, basically every kind of techno in existence received a run, from deep, hypnotic trips to brutal, ravey acid.
“Bjarki’s live set is one of the best I’ve ever seen”
Bjarki’s live set is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The Icelandic producer translated his music into a club setting with intelligence, flair and energy. Tracks remained mostly faithful to the studio versions, but with thoughtful tweaks and improvisations to create a sense of uniqueness and spontaneity to the live set, rather than having it just feel like an album listening party.
The full breadth of his sound was covered in the set, from pounding, percussive, and sample-heavy slammers to expansive, otherworldly ambient explorations, and of course plenty of nods to old school hardcore breakbeat and rave.
Naturally, I Wanna Go Bang received the biggest reaction of the set, but cuts from his recent albums like Naked Naked, Can You Feel It (92 Hoover), and Planet Earth, as well as brand new amen workout Fresh Jive got lively responses as well. The ambient interludes seemed to go over some heads, but the more patient members of the crowd clearly appreciated the subtlety of these moments.
As 1AM rolled around, Nina Kraviz stepped up to close out the night for the next three hours. Her set in Melbourne was not without a vocal minority of critics, but if there was any doubt about whether the Russian techno prodigy was going to bring her A-game to Sydney, it was quickly dispelled.
Over the next three hours, Kraviz weaved her way through a classy, varied selection of underground techno. One of the best things about Kraviz’s selections is that there is no compromise – her taste is what it is, and she expresses herself without apology – and that was clearly on display on Saturday night. It was the sort of pure, unwatered-down techno that educates as well as entertains.
“One of the best things about Kraviz’s selections is that there is no compromise – her taste is what it is, and she expresses herself without apology”
Starting off on a stripped-down, hypnotic tip, Nina created a spacey and heady groove that felt like receiving an interstellar transmission. Crisp, driving percussion cut through growling low end and trippy atmospherics, before giving way to captivating melodic sequences. At just the right moment, the intensity went up, with Kraviz laying down a selection of squelchy acid grooves before eventually working her way into some classic booty and ghetto tech, including DJ Deeon’s ever-relevant Shake What Ya Momma Gave Ya.
In her final hour, Nina took the opportunity to get weird, rewarding those who stayed with some truly out-there moments in amongst some more down-the-line slammers. Without question the most memorable of these moments was a track that started a techno tempo and slowly sped up until it was pounding away at jungle speed, complete with chopped-up amen drum samples and creepy vocals. As her set drew to a close, she dug into the history books, laying down a selection of classic tracks, but in her uncompromising style, none of them were overplayed anthems. A true journey set if there ever was one.
Meanwhile in the Cave, Stephan Bodzin was working like a one man band on a huge live setup, which included a custom build transparent midi controller and a huge Moog synthesiser. Plenty of fan favourites received a run, including Powers of Ten and Callisto, in amongst some new material and lesser known gems. For Bodzin diehards, it was as great a performance as ever.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you Sydney has no techno scene.
Andrew Wowk is a Sydney-based writer and DJ. You can argue with him on Twitter.