Ranging from dark techno to electro pop to far-flung field recordings in Northern forests: the electronic music scene in Russia in general and in Moscow in particular certainly has no limits. In Moscow, Siberia, New York and Berlin Russian producers are looking for new beats, new synths, new voices and sonic experiences. What really unites them are talent, an unconventional approach to sound and determination — something they need to survive. With millions of fans on SoundCloud and gigs in European capitals, as well as across their own country, it’s impressive that they are still underground. Speaking of underground perhaps Synthposium is just the thing that embodies the heart and soul of Russian ventures into electronic music today. Synthposium is an annual Moscow-based festival exploring a new interdisciplinary culture formed at the junction of electronic music and technology. For the last three years, Synthposium has united and inspired professional producers and musicians, fans of analogue and modular synthesizers, engineers and experts on musical instruments. 156 speakers and artists participated in the three previous editions of Synthposium, and their performances and workshops were attended by 7,000 people and supported by 20 big brands and leading Russian and European media outlets.
So what artists are setting the Russian music scene of today? To get you up to speed we start off with a video from Boiler room that provides a bit of a sneak peak into the Russian electronic music scene, although we are still just scratching the surface.
1 X Pleasure (Meda Fury – 2014) – OL
2 Untitled Juke 1 – VTGNIKE
3 Untitled Juke 1 – VTGNIKE
4 Zarubezh – VTGNIKE
5 Mne Nravitsya – VTGNIKE
6 Brazil Prince – VTGNIKE
7 Stimulate – VTGNIKE
8 Lum (Edit)(Meda Fury – 2014) – OL
Some artists have made more footprints then others. First of we have Moscow-based producer Oleg Buyanov aka OL specializes in a rough and dirty yet sophisticated sound: intricate work with samples and beats feeds into the irresistible groove of the capital’s underground parties. Then we have NV, she’s the brainchild of Moscow-based musician, singer and producer Katya Shilonosova, takes its inspiration from 1980s Japanese pop, avant-garde art and futuristic experiments in contemporary music. Another key guy is Alexey Devayin aka Pixelord is one of the key people driving Russian electronic music forward on the international scene. He mixes futuristic bass, footwork, garage and grime together into a unique take on bass music.
Berlin-based DJ and producer Alexandra Zakharenko aka Perila (formerly wedontneedwords) divides her time between music, visual art and graphic design. Often she merges them, playing surreal video snippets and projecting pencil sketches and screen grabs over distorted house samples. Ildar Zaynetdinov aka Lowbob runs Gost Zvuk, probably the most influential and vibrant underground Russian label of today, the go-to place for the most cutting-edge electronic music. When he’s not running the label, Zaynetdinov also composes music under the name 8OUSYBOY. Mujuice aka Roman Litvinov is a real superstar of the Russian electronic music scene. During his career he switched genres and approaches a few times: from techno to soft piano to being on vocals with the band.
What can we then expect from this year’s Synthposium. Looking at the list of confirmed artists it appears that we are up for a real treat. The ex-guitarist of the electropop group Naadya, ideologist of musical project Dub i prosto derevo, and RBMA 2015 participant has embarked on an active inquiry into the Buchla modular synthesizer. Maria performs with the Buchla at solo concerts and presented an installation at the Geometry of Now multimedia project, hosted at the GES-2 power station. Teriaeva is preparing the release of her first album with an emphasis on the Buchla sound. The single Merinos is now available, featuring live trombones and vocals from Vadik Korolev of indie group OQJAV.
If you are looking for more heavy beats – look no further. Interchain is a techno duo consisting of Yevgeny Gorbunov, co-founder and guitarist of the punk rock band ГШ (formerly known as Glintshake) and Andrey Lee, known for his productions as Obgon. The musicians offer dark and rebellious live performances with a taste of the classic Detroit techno sound, the early recordings of Bunker Records, and a riot punk atmosphere.
Keen on Polivox and the Soviet legacy? Although the Polivox has been put to rest Alina Izolenta and Kamil Ea began exploring electronic music on the Soviet devices Polivox, Electronica EM-04, Rhythm-2, Youth-21, later they got Korg ESX and Korg EMX and now they use two Elektron Octatrack. The PTU duo got success not only in Russia but abroad, their vinyl EP A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day on Nina Kraviz’ label трип is a desire of every techno-DJ.
The two members of PTU, Alina Izolenta and Kamil EA, grew up in Siberia and Volga and recorded the release in Moscow and Kazan, so they’ve become embedded in the techno communities throughout Russia.
If you’re more into the experimental side of things then make sure to check out Alexander Ivanov the multiplayer from Tver who creates new forms of media art – he synthesizes electronic music, modern art and digital design. For example, he monthly presents video sketches with a new ambient track in his Year cycle.
Before you head over to Synthposium make sure to make a visit at Arma17. They started as a big club seven years ago, and they’ve grown into something massive. They’ve always kept their focus not just on the clubbing spirit but making the clubbing experience wider and more rich, inviting visual and installation artists and mounting risky and fantastic line-ups. It used to be a special event that happened every few months, and now people are booking buses to come to Arma17 parties and to Outline Festival, which is partly organized by Arma17.
The aftermath of the project has seen growing audience interest and the potential for the local market to become, in the near future, one of the most creative and fast-paced in the world. Today the festival reached beyond a narrowly specialized community and becomes a major urban event that will provide a unique interactive platform for demonstrating engineering thought, digital design, business projects and the results of creative inquiry across different subject.
In 2017 the extended four-day format for Synthposium will include an exhibition of achievements in music technology, and an educational program dedicated to lectures, public talks and workshops led by international and local experts and engineers. A parallel awards ceremony will take place for the first time at Synthposium, awarding prizes to the best engineering, the best interface designs and concepts, and artists with the most technologically advanced live shows – all for the first time in Russia. The festival will also host interactive installations, public art and audiovisual performances. An evening program will include three after-parties at popular clubbing venues in Moscow, with foreign artists and famous local musicians among the headliners.