If you had to melt down the appeal of Anastasia Kristensen to just two words, it could well be ‘energy flash’. There are a few reasons it’s a snug fit: for a start, the immediate associations are smoke and strobes, lasers and lights, big-league rave bliss and barely-marshalled sonic chaos; that is to say, maximum fun from a dancefloor perspective, something Kristensen keenly channels as a DJ. The character she exudes as a person, and not just a playlist-for-hire, mirrors it too: a whirlwind in the booth, it’s rare not to see her wide grin glinting through a motion blur of fader tricks, sashaying and vigorous air drumming.
There’s also the perfection of imperfection in a flash of energy, a sense of freedom in the face of stultifying codes and norms. Kristensen embodies this, giving the best show of herself in any given point of time without being performative or buttoned-up. It makes for a refreshingly authentic and human to her burgeoning career in music, a gift that makes curious onlookers instant fans. You watch her going for it with unguarded emotion and gregarious expression, punching in the drums, chopping the faders, unleashing bangers, seizing the moment with a grin, and you think: That could be me up there.
Kristensen’s assured sense of self comes through in the music she has made her own. Tracks that could be bludgeoning in the wrong hands become tactile in hers, weapons to move bodies in unison. The music is spacey and then suddenly sharp as a tack, as breaks careen forward and records spin back. She is not shy of deploying call-to-action vocals, the rush of hi-NRG synth riffs, or ten-ton gabber kicks in the heat of the moment, alongside the rave rinsers, scything electro and booming techno she is best known for. Kristensen is a poster-child for techno’s lean out of its associated black hole, and into a spectrum of colours, textures and light. Whether a speck on a festival stage or right up close in a basement, she makes it seem as if the music is catered solely to you. You can’t pre-plan a party or pre-suppose the needs of people – for Kristensen, it has to feel real.
Born into an artsy family in Moscow, a move to Denmark in the mid-2000s galvanised a determination to avoid conformity, and hack her own path. Her adolescence scans as an idiosyncratic roll of contemporary musical (mis)adventure: packing MP3 players in a factory, falling hard for Nine Inch Nails and having her raver pulse first set racing at a chiptune festival, of all things. Even as her tastes broadened with each fresh exposure to Detroit ghettotech, UK bleep, German techno and Dutch electro, this unconventional entry to the world of electronic music continues to leave its mark in Kristensen’s taste for crunchy curveballs and unlikely dancefloor bombs that others might swerve. “I am,” she says, “driven by spreading confidence and fearlessness,” and it shows.
Being up for a challenge has defined Kristensen’s rise and rise. After years of sharpening her reputation as a resident at Culture Box, and in particular Mainstream, one of the city’s few dedicated LGBTQ parties, in early 2017 she was welcomed for her first shows out of Europe. The mini-tour of Pittsburgh’s Hot Mass, New York’s Unter and San Francisco’s The Stud – aka the white-hot fringe of the American queer underground – did not represent a risk. As with most things in Kristensen’s life, she was well-drilled to make the step up when the occasion presented itself. This short American run had the effect of throwing a can of gas onto a fire that was already burning bright.
From there, a live set was made up especially for a Strøm event on Copenhagen’s Metro. A celebrated edition of the Resident Advisor mix series arrived, as well as two Boiler Room shows in 9 months, plus career-defining trips to Movement and EXIT Festivals, and a general deluge of bookings to pack out the 2018 calendar. On have followed shows across the world: in Hanoi, Grenoble, Kaunas, Tuzla, Bogotá, Dresden, Edmonton, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo; a live performance for the Berghain on the opening night of CTM Festival, repeat bookings at Bassiani and Blitz, a graduation to Afterlife and Awakenings-sized events, and a stint as DJ Mag cover star.
This prominence as a DJ has lent her the presence of a seasoned producer, bolstered by a successful introduction to her burgeoning chops, “Spring Ballade,” and high-profile remixes for artists like Special Request and Daniel Avery that generated mass airtime in clubs. Yet only in 2019 did her first full release, an EP by the name of Ascetic, arrive on Warp offshoot Arcola – a point of immense pride for Kristensen, given both the main label’s unrivalled importance, and the sub-label’s fine roster of cutting-edge talent. It’s where she belongs.
As well as straddling rave’s storied past and immediate future, another duality marks Kristensen at this stage of her career: the “collectivism vs individualism” she experienced growing up in a foreign land, working out the kinks of its society and its culture. This chimes with her status as a breakout star who still remains resolutely curious about the music, trends and people that makes the underground tick in any particular city she plays in. It is why she travels back to a city like Hong Kong, to feed off like minds and feed back into their ecosystem, to stay in touch with the person she has always been: an enthusiastic, geeky, utterly dedicated lover of music, first and foremost. This folds itself around Kristensen’s aura in the booth and the sounds that come out of the studio: the sound of someone who is evidently having fun, and, critically, having fun making other people have fun.
By taking that vital first flash of energy and making it relatable, accessible and utterly infectious, Anastasia Kristensen has rapidly clicked with a great deal of people across all walks of dance music – and why she is set to keep doing so for years and years to come.