- Nina Kraviz's curatorial touch shines on this gabber-inspired compilation.
- Nina Kraviz has fostered a community of young, mostly Russian and Icelandic producers who make weird, captivating techno for her label, Trip. And while she's taken young artists under wing, she's also been something of a techno historian, releasing previously unheard Aphex Twin material and introducing little-known producers like Biogen and Exos to new audiences. Several Trip releases have been various artists "concept albums," a format that allows the kind of variety she gets across in her best DJ sets. Trip's 20th release, a ten-track LP called Don't Mess With Cupid, 'Cause Cupid Ain't Stupid, doubles down on everything that's been exciting about the label for the last four years. It's a heady mix of old and new, functional and weird.
Trip specializes in druggy, hypnotic and unrelenting techno—qualities that make it ideal for big festival stages as well as dazed afterhours. For the most part, Don't Mess With Cupid focuses on the harder end of this sound. Tracks from the Russian producers Shadowax and PTU are tense and repetitive, but they're not without surprises. Shadowax's "I Want To Be A Stewardess" eventually explodes into a blitz of breaks, while the simple lead on PTU's "Castor And Pollux" keeps melting, Dali-esque, all over the track. Exos's "Grasshunter," on the other hand, is brutal minimalism with a discordant melody—a quintessential Trip tune if there ever was one.
Don't Mess With Cupid excels whenever gabber surfaces, as it does on Nikita Zabelin's edit of DEKA's "Pearl." But it's actually the older tracks that are the most radical. Aphex Twin's obscure Universal Indicator project, a collaboration with Mike Dred, is represented by a kind of acid gabber that is hyper, repetitive and single-minded. But Pilldriver—an alias of Marc Acardipane, AKA The Mover—steals the spotlight with "PitchHiker," a piece of foaming-at-the-mouth hardcore that's essentially one kick drum sent through a gauntlet of effects for five minutes.
That track epitomises Kraviz's label: intense dance music, by turns simple and creative, that undeniably works. The idea is mirrored in Kraviz's own contribution, "Opa," which ends Don't Mess With Cupid in a bonkers rush of muttered vocals, gabber kick drums and the occasional splash of acid. That one of the world's biggest techno DJs would make something like "Opa" and include it on a label compilation says a lot about Trip's fearless attitude. 20 releases in, it now has an identifiable sound, albeit one that constantly tries to slip out of your grasp. Don't Mess With Cupid is the latest stage of its evolution, taking Trip's sound to another level.
01. Biogen - Hexagraphic
02. PTU - Castor And Pollux
03. DEKA - Pearl (Nikita Zabelin edit)
04. Exos - Grasshunter
05. Bjarki - 3-1 Tap Lush
06. Pilldriver - PitchHiker
07. Shadowax - I Want To Be A Stewardess
08. Universal Indicator - 15 c7
09. Roma Zuckerman - Zero
10. Nina Kraviz - Opa