I first met Niki Kitz as a scholar, not a DJ.
A mutual friend introduced us at the Kitty Cat Klub—and it turned out that we’d both interviewed many of the same ’90s Midwestern DJs, promoters, and dance lifers (for my book and her dissertation). It wasn’t till later on, when she got on the decks at a small post-club gathering at her house, that I realized she played as well as studied techno.
Of course, a good DJs plays techno like they study it as well, and Kitz is no exception. A Milwaukee native who moved to Northeast Minneapolis last August, Kitz is in her sixth year of DJing total. She played at after-parties for the Movement festival (Memorial Day weekend, Detroit), and was a regular at “really awesome underground parties in Milwaukee and Madison,” not to mention Chicago, where Kitz reports that she “recently played to a packed room at Exit in Chicago—that was a ton of fun.”
“I really love playing psychedelic/experimental techno and lately I've been into really fast industrial techno,” she says. “I like incorporating electro and breaks into my sets a lot of times too. Sometimes I play psy-trance and sometimes I play ambient music. When I first started DJing I primarily played house music and I still like house music, I just don’t play it that often any more. Most of the time I’m not really sure how to classify or describe the music I play... when people ask me what kind of music I am going to play for a particular gig I usually just answer ‘weird stuff.’”
Weird, accessible stuff—in fact, Kitz’s episode of Kajunga Program—Season 2, Episode 8 (November 1, 2017) is probably that podcast’s finest installment to date. It’s both driving and ruminative—alternately dusty and dewy techno for those late nights that lean toward daybreak. Kitz’s ear for the dark and off-kilter is matched by her feel for building and milking tension even in a set that, she says, is “a bit ‘housier’ than some of my other recent mixes—but I feel like it’s still really me. I put a lot of thought into the ordering of the tracks and the feelings they evoke.”
That If that weren’t enough, Kitz put another set out this week, These Things Take Time (March 19, 2018), that’s consonant with but tonally quite different from the Kajunga mix, and deserves some ink. And since I was off last week due to illness, it seems mete to spotlight this set as well, since I’d have raced to write about this even if the Kajunga set didn’t exist.
Where Kajunga 2.8 is a straightforward, linear dance-floor session, T.T.T.T. is adamantly a listening set—an ambitious one that takes chances. Though the tracks were pulled together over a long period, the DJ put it together following a long night out, and it was clearly made while in the zone. Kitz’s opening is a (very) long-winding build-up, and elbow-sharp left turns are constant. There are beats here, but they frequently subside, and the finale fully gives way to ambient—a run of voluptuously atmospheric tracks by Gas, Four Tet, and Cristian Vogel.
The dance tracks are no slouches either. Just listen to the netherworldly bass and smoky percussive timbres of Gareth Whitehead’s “When You Believe (Shelley Parker Remix),” midway through the set. That one goes straight into Boy Harsher’s synth-Gothy “Modulations,” which itself speeds right back up, but with a postpunky manic energy that sounds like the exact mid-point between techno and Goth. This mix is another step in a DJ fast finding her distinct voice.
Overland Recordings Presents BlaQ Birthday
With: mrBlaQ b2b Niki Kitz, MBC, Mosa
Where: Club Underground at the Spring Street Tavern
When: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fri. Mar. 24
Tickets: $5; more info here
Are you a Twin Cities dance-music DJ? Michaelangelo Matos wants to hear your latest set. He writes about recent mixes by local DJs (and DJs making local appearances) every Thursday for City Pages. Tweet to his attention: @matoswk75.