“There was magic in the air when I listened to it” – In conversation with Anastasia Kristensen on her EP ‘Volshebno’
Anastasia Kristensen has just released her highly anticipated EP via Fabric’s Houndstooth label. The EP, titled Volshebno, features three tracks that showcase Anastasia’s precision and passion for producing. The tracks, each in their own way, make the listener feel a sense of excitement, and funnily enough, that’s also what the Russian word “volshebno” means. The EP is accompanied by several remixes from producers the likes of quest?onmarq, KETTAMA and Ctrls.
The EP drops with the captivating and personal video “Volshebno Stretched”. The sentimental video is a beautifully shot portrayal of human experiences, with crystal clear, super high definition shots of four Danish natives – thoughtfully cast by and including Ana herself – free to explore and express their emotions.
KALTBLUT caught up with Anastasia over zoom to discuss her latest EP, her connections to ballet and the reason why the EP is volshebno. Read the full interview below.
KALTBLUT: How do you feel about releasing your EP Volshebno? Are you excited? I guess since we’re closer to the “end” of the pandemic, you’re probably gonna have a more normal release day, too.
Anastasia: Well, hopefully. Let’s see how it goes. (laughs) With the release around the corner, my team assesses how everything’s looking constantly. I’m excited, also because, in a way, this is a very personal EP. The other two were obviously personal too, but this one is really about those first feelings you get when you’re excited, or even disappointed. That’s why it’s so melodic, deep and very well layered. Those were the emotions I tried to capture, I guess those were also the emotions that I had during the pandemic as well.
I’m excited to see how it’s gonna be received, but I also know that I really like it myself. The remixes that we’ve put out have also added another flavour to the whole project. I’ve been working on Volshebno for quite some time and the label is also very excited, I’m glad it’s finally being released.
KALTBLUT: You’ve produced the EP during the pandemic. Has it somehow changed your approach to producing?
Anastasia: It’s hard to say, because the best way of comparing this would be coming out of the pandemic and producing an EP again… but we’re still in it. I struggle a bit to respond to that, because I’m a producer who produces quite rarely. When I produce, I allocate two to three intense months to producing. It brought a new mood to my production, and the EP may have been affected by the pandemic just because we all went inwards with our thinking and creativity, because we didn’t have that much space in the outward. I believe it has something to do with that, but I will only really be able to tell when we’re in a better time.
KALTBLUT: You’ve already touched on the EP’s name, which is Volshebno. “Volshebno” is Russian and translates to a magical feeling. Is that the feeling you felt producing it?
Anastasia: When I made one of the first tracks on this EP, I think it was the stretched version of “Volshebno”, there was magic in the air when I listened to it. And all I could do is connect the music to the first feelings of excitement when you get delivered very good news, or you realise that you have a crush on someone, something in that kind of manner.
I just couldn’t help but name it in my mother tongue, Russian. Magical and miraculous is a synonymous word in Russian, and I have stuck to that narrative. I then made a faster version of the track, which is still playful and magical, but there’s different storytelling when you listen to it. I’m not a producer who’s spending too much time naming things, but usually, the ones that appear organically are the ones I proceed with.
KALTBLUT: You’ve lived in both Russia and Denmark. Musically, do you take inspiration from the places that are significant to you?
Anastasia: I’m always trying to bring along something that I was born with. I played Soviet Electronica during my Boiler Room set in Russia, for example. It reinforced my regional belonging to the mentality, the country and the mindset. Without that, I had to live up to any other stereotypes, but I made this connection myself in the way I thought it would represent me and my belonging there.
I always try to research where I’m going and what kind of political and social-economical climate my destination has. It’s important to have all the flavours that you’re born with if you’re able to. Naming the EP after the Russian abbreviation is one of those attributes, I would say. It can also be a dangerous game if you constantly fall back on your geographical belonging or your nationality; it doesn’t progress and develop from there. I try to balance it nicely with modern, new things, such as my Danish “new living”, which isn’t even that new, I’ve been here for 15 years. (laughs) Falling back to where I come from, what culture I come from, they’re both super different. So sometimes I have a conflict in my head and I ask myself “Who am I?”
KALTBLUT: You said earlier that you research the political and social aspects of places where you’re scheduled to play. Can you tell me a little bit about that and how it translates into your sets?
Anastasia: First of all, I always research what party I’m going to. Some parties are organised by activist movements, such as LGBTQ+ parties, which are very active for LGBTQ+ and trans rights. I always try to provide some classic music, which came from that environment, because that’s where it comes from and also where it belongs. It’s a fine matter to be culturally sensitive; I can’t play certain tracks, especially if I didn’t research them, it becomes offensive.
For me, it’s more about researching the musical background, the roots, and the background of the promoter that you play. I can then see how I can combine it and show awareness. It doesn’t have to be necessarily translated into my sets, but also just at the dinner table with a promoter. As many of us know, the scenes and the society in Kyiv and Belarus are going through a lot of aggression by the governments and police. I care a lot about that and I don’t want to play mindless gigs, I want to be in touch and somehow support the scene that I’ve been invited into.
KALTBLUT: I love that approach, I think more DJs should do the same as you. Since we’re already talking about gigs, I find that when you play, even if it’s at huge festivals or clubs, you still create a feeling of intimacy. How do you create that feeling of intimacy?
Anastasia: Thank you so much, that’s a big compliment for me. There might be several reasons for that, but I guess the main one is that focusing only on one genre is against my nature. I like to appreciate music from all corners and angles.
When you ask me how I do it technically, there are certain marks and attributes you can watch out for and see if they would work. For example, if the track has lots of percussions, and the next track doesn’t have it, it would be a very good match, because there is space for both of them. It’s like Lego or Tetris, there has to be space for the next little cube. Otherwise, you can’t put it together, it’s going to be too much. If there is a certain element combination that you can kind of approach and predict in your playlist when you play, that would be very helpful to create a very interesting but diverse set. I would recommend Objekt’s “The Art of DJing”, he explains that well, the energy, how you lift it, how you put it back in, how to go from bass into tech. I never played like him, but when I read that, it was two, three years ago, it just really resonated with me and I think that that logic is something I would follow.
I care a lot about that and I don’t want to play mindless gigs, I want to be in touch and somehow support the scene that I’ve been invited into
KALTBLUT: Thank you for the recommendation! I also wanted to touch on your history with ballet and how you getting into dance music can be traced back to that. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?
Anastasia: I’ve never danced professionally, I never wanted to – I was deemed too tall anyway. Then I moved to Denmark and a whole different life started. However, this sense of musicality and harmony as well as the aesthetic is something that’s coming from my ballet background. I don’t think I’d appreciate music the same way if I didn’t start with seeing ballet as a full art form, including music, the dance moves, the scenography and the costumes. I don’t dance anymore and I wouldn’t say that Copenhagen has much ballet activity here compared to Russia. But I regularly try to go to the theatre, not last year obviously, I try to watch stuff on YouTube and I follow all the relevant channels, because that’s my true hobby and also where my brain relaxes.
Maybe one day I’ll become a really big artist and I have the opportunity to create a piece together with a ballet company. That would be an ultimate artistic goal of mine.
KALTBLUT: What kind of music did you listen to as a child? Did you already listen to electronic music in Russia, or did you get into that in Copenhagen?
Anastasia: I think it was more in Copenhagen. I was 14 when I left Russia, it was the age where you start learning about your tastes, maybe for the first time. In Denmark, I started getting into music as some form of escape, because it was really hard to get integrated.
I didn’t live in Copenhagen at first, I lived in the rural outskirts in northern Denmark and I didn’t know the language and for me, it was such a big shock to come from a big city to a village with such a different community and society. I started researching lots of stuff and I got into some Russian and American stuff, then I got hooked on the actual electronic sound, the computery, and the glitchy stuff. Naturally from there, I got so curious that I got into Detroit, Chicago stuff and it snowballed from there.
Much later, I got into DJing. I would say coming into DJing started with knowing music before aiming. I think my first rave was when I was 21, considering many other people coming to the scene at the age of 16. All those UK teenagers attending illegal raves, it never happened to me.
I would say I was more educated when I started raving, I could recognise some of the tracks, while lots of other people wouldn’t. (laughs) So, in a way, it was awkward, but that’s how it started for me. It was basically because I tried to find some sort of peace of mind with being an immigrant back then.