Everything began in 1920, when a young Russian physicist presented a highly unusual musical instrument that produced eerie, otherworldly sounds. This was actually the birth of electronic music as such. Lev Sergeyevich Termen had developed the world’s first fully functioning electronic instrument – the Theremin.
In 1957, the successful launch of a small ball-shaped satellite happened to be the starting shot of the Space Race between the USSR and the USA, which led to the notorious Sputnik Crisis in the US. Maybe it’s no mere coincidence that in the same year, the Soviet Radio founded an institution producing the Space Age’s soundtrack: Vyacheslav Mescherin’s Ensemble of Electro-Musical Instruments. Suddenly, the balalaika, the accordion and the guitar sounded as if played on another planet. In 1959, the Soviet government asked Mescherin for an electronic sound recording of The Internationale, to be sent to outer space on board of the first sputnik– extraterrestrial reactions haven’t been registered so far. Mescherin’s ensemble played the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a regular basis. Until 1990, Mescherin had created several hundred musical pieces for radio and television. Mescherin had to be inventive though. Electronic music was considered inoffensive by the government, but did not receive special support either. That’s why Mescherin designed and built many electronic instruments himself.
Inspired by the success of Soviet space programs and the conquest of the universe, visions of the future dominated Soviet films, literature as well as music in the 1970es. Remarkable science fiction movies with fantastic soundtracks merging Easy Listening, Electronic Psychedelia and Beat were shot. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible nowadays to get hold of this kind of music.
This past sonic world full of dated imaginations of the future is a seminal source of inspiration for a new generation of Russian electronic musicians. A both ironic and affectionate retrospect to their childhood in the Soviet Union is paired with present-day sampling and crossover techniques, which results in surreal collages. Like Sputniks, the musicians are orbiting the earth, assimilating stimulations from the whole world. Igor Vdovin sends Russian sailors to Brazil and a gypsy band to outer space. Dima Vikhornov and Snegopady demonstrate what Russian folk music might sound like when played by Martians. Veteran DJs Krugozory (66 and 67 years old) confront pompous military marches with nursery rhymes, refining the melange with a bit of light Soviet jazz. Messer Chups pass Tchaikovsky’s nutcracker into alien hands, where it is deconstructed and reassembled.
This highly individual kind of music, located somewhere between lounge, easy listening and radical experimentation is most of all cultivated by Moscow labels Snegiri/Legkie and Solnze Records. This scene’s creativity is getting more and more recognition. Igor Vdovin has been hired as a producer by Russian superstar Zemfira. Bands like Messer für Frau Müller and Messer Chups are gaining popularity in the Western world. This mix of old and new, mysterious East and modern Europe makes this music so unique and fascinating. This compilation shows a somewhat different side of popular music in Russia. Welcome to Café Sputnik. Take off and enjoy!
01. Messer Chups – Tchaikovsky Beat
02. O.M.F.O. feat. Sputnik – Sea Cruise
03. Messer für Frau Müller – The Best Girl In The USSR
04. Dima Vikhornov – Folk Song
05. Netslov – Wind Of Freedom
06. Kim & Buran – Morning On The Planet
07. Igor Vdovin – Gypsy Band Goes Up To The Sky
08. DJs Krugozory – Nursery Rhyme
09. Snegopady – Polka
10. Oleg Kostrow – In Three Hands
11. Andrei Zuyev – No Name Rok ‘n Rol
12. Dzuma – Cartoons
13. Messer für Frau Müller – Intim Service Cosmique
14. Nezhnoye Eto – A Little Bit Of Nothing
15. Netslov – Kyoto (Version 3)
16. Igor Vdovin – Russian Sailor’s Trip In Brazil
17. Notkin – Tanzania
18. Our Man From Odessa – SoftTransAuto
19. Messer Chups – Let’s Ride A Carousel
20. Ensemble Mescherina – It’s Frosty Outside