Anastasia Kristensen is the ballet enthusiast turned DJ who loves obscure ‘90s techno bangers
FACT Rated is our series digging into the sounds and stories the most vital breaking artists around right now. This week, Scott Wilson meets Anastasia Kristensen, the Copenhagen-based DJ whose appreciation for obscure ‘90s techno can be traced back to her early love ballet.
When Anastasia Kristensen played to a busy Tresor club at Berlin’s Atonal festival last month, one track stood out: a jungle banger featuring a sample Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Welcome To The Jungle’. In the claustrophobic surrounds what is sometimes perceived as one the world’s most serious techno clubs, it was an unexpected breath fresh air. “When I make music, when I DJ or when I go out partying myself, I want to dump my emotions, I want to dump my energy – I want to shake it f,” she says. “And I don’t think you’re able to do that when it’s all hypnotic and dark and serious.”
Born in Russia and based in Copenhagen, Kristensen can be counted alongside Courtesy and Apeiron Crew as part a young generation DJs putting the Danish capital on the techno map. But Kristensen’s approach to techno can be traced back to her experience practising ballet, citing Thom Willems’ music for William Forsyth’s 1987 piece ‘In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated’ as a “foundation” for the sound she’s attracted to. That sound, present in her DJ sets and this year’s ‘Going Back In Time’, is a combination dense, industrial-edged beats and airy, light-footed textures.
Kristensen learned to DJ while studying in Canada and on her return four years ago went to work building her local prile; now, she’s a resident at the city’s renowned Culture Box club with a promising international career. Her thrilling DJ sets span genre and time period; you can expect her to play contemporary club music from artists like Special Request, Sissel Wincent and fellow Copenhagen producer and collaborator CTRLS, but also classic Detroit techno, ghettotech and UK bleep, especially RAC’s 1995 Warp classic Doublejointed, which she cites as one her favorite records. It’s this open-mindedness that gives her DJ sets their character: hard, fearsome techno with a ‘90s twist.
Some these older sounds might have fallen out fashion on mainstream techno dancefloors, but she isn’t worried about how she’s perceived. “I believe that art shouldn’t be too serious about itself,” she says. “When you think about DJing, what is that? You’re playing somebody else’s music. How can you take that that seriously? I started out playing deeper and more hypnotic tracks, but I think with time I realized I wanted to play faster, more edgy tracks – more wonky and loopy. I always want to be dancing to the music I listen to.” This skewed quality seeps into her own tracks; last year’s ‘Spring Ballade’ combines a razor precision with the sense that the whole thing could crumple in an exhausted heap at any minute.
However, she does take the process digging for new tracks very seriously – not in the record bins, but online. For Kristensen, making contact with DJs to get hold unheard tracks from the vault or otherwise impossible-to-find rarities is almost more important than having access to the latest unreleased music. “I spend way more time bugging people on SoundCloud to send me stuff than just going to Hard Wax’s top 20 tracks,” she says. “I play with ficial releases too, but I’m really trying to go beyond that. It’s like the dark web in a way, the one you don’t see, but it’s there – and that’s what I try to explore.”
Kristensen’s appearance at Atonal was the high point what’s been a breakout year. So far in 2017 she’s played all over Europe, embarked on a solo tour the USA and closed Berghain’s new Saule venue. This week she’ll make her UK debut, and in October, she’ll play at Krakow’s renowned Unsound Festival. She also counts Ben UFO and Mumdance among her fans, despite only having released a few tracks. Kristensen is currently working on a full debut EP for Greek label Nous Disques, but she seems equally as happy to play DJ sets right now. “I’ve found that niche sound I really want to channel and it works, so I like that people dig it.”
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