Nina Kraviz: Nina Kraviz

The verdict one reaches concerning Nina Kraviz's eponymously titled debut full-length is fundamentally influenced by expectations. Naturally, the debut from someone who's established herself as a DJ brings with it the idea that the recording will be a club-oriented set of dancefloor cuts. If one comes to it, then, anticipating a set of high-energy ravers, disappointment will follow. If, on the other hand, one comes to it knowing that it's a collection of after-hours moodscapes, said disappointment won't set in—or at least will be alleviated to some degree. She isn't without experience: Kraviz began producing music in 2008, and at about the same time, began refining her DJ skills in Moscow bars and clubs before embarking on a two-year stint of Friday night appearances at the Propaganda club in Russia.

Recorded over the course of two years, the collection arrives on a wave of hype, due in no small part to the Muscovite DJ-producer's physical appeal. The album cover clearly exploits that sexy side, as does the video for the lead single “Ghetto Kraviz,” which finds Ms. Kraviz cavorting provocatively. But what matters is the music, of course, and in that regard the album registers as a not entirely satisfying affair. In general, Kraviz's soulful take on minimal house is lean on melodic grounds and heavy on atmosphere and mood. Emblematic of the style is “Petr,” a largely stripped-down affair driven by a plodding bass line and 4/4 kick drums and embellished with keyboard stabs, percussive accents, and sensual vocal interjections.

There are pluses and minuses of varying kinds throughout. Moody and beatless, “Walking in the Night” proves to be a too-long overture of little lasting import, though her breathy vocal shudder does prove to be marginally ear-catching. Among the more memorable cuts are “Aus,” a reasonably engaging jam spiked by the vocal musings of King Aus, and “Ghetto Kraviz,” which weds her monotone voice chants to a bass-popping bounce and shimmering synth stabs. Anything but sluggish, “Love or Go” digs into its deep house groove with determination, resulting in a muscular workout that, while overlong, hits harder than much of the album. “Taxi Talk” comes close to feeling genuinely soulful, more due to the thick bass pulse powering the groove than her scattered phrases, while “False Attraction” would be little more than a mildly interesting minimal workout were her anxious vocal not present. Instrumental cuts like the acid-tinged dreamscape “Working” and the crackle-drenched soul-funk jam “Choices” percolate and shimmer alluringly.

Few tracks thus stand out in a collection that's best heard as a cumulative, hour-long experience, and it's also telling that Nina Kraviz ends with a breathy vocal-based ambient meditation (“Fire”) instead of something uptempo and beat-based. Considered on a track-by-track basis, the album underwhelms, yet when broached as an album-length exercise in late-night moodsculpting, Nina Kraviz admittedly fares better.

April 2012