An Overview of the EDM Scene in Russia
Russia’s electronic music scene is enjoying a bit of a moment. The last five years or so have seen techno arrive in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in a big way, with countless parties put on in tons of new clubs and a proper annual festival, Outline, attracting global names like Ron Morelli, Veronica Vasicka and Ricardo Villalobos before it was shut down by the mean-spirited, rave-bashing Powers That Be in 2016.
The country’s native take on club music runs the gamut from the innovative and experimental to the popular and dancefloor-ready; bolstered by the musical legacy of pioneers like Dmitri Shostakovich and backed up by tech created by instrument manufacturers like SSSR. One person very visibly flying the flag for Russia’s electronic music scene is the Irkutsk-born techno superstar Nina Kraviz.
Back in 2005, Kraviz was among the lucky few selected to attend the annual Red Bull Music Academy in Seattle. However – in a story that will be sorely familiar to many Russians – she was denied a visa. Luckily, RBAM were so keen on their gifted student that they invited her to “enrol” in Melbourne the following year. Fast forward to 2017 and Kraviz is touring constantly, whether she’s releasing her own tracks (“Ghetto Kraviz” is still the jam), playing “cave raves” in Iceland, scouting hot, undiscovered talents like Bjarki for her record label Trip or making thousands of ravers dance the night away at Sonar festival.
In 2013, she catalysed conversation around the topic of gender inequality in the booth, when a few male counterparts got green eyes over an article on Resident Advisor, questioning whether she was being hired more for her appearance than her ability. In the years since, Kraviz has silenced those critics, becoming in the process one of the most sought-after DJs – male or female – on the world circuit.
Kraviz is not working in isolation. She’s merely the most recognisable name of a coming generation of Russian producers catering to all types of audience on the dancefloor. In the darker corners, where bodies writhe around heavy four-four kicks and industrial techno, you’ll find Unbalance. The Muscovite displaces the noises traditionally found in Berlin’s abandoned industrial complexes to the Arctic tundra, chilling, illusive atmospheres coiling around hypnotic repetitive forms that draw the listener closer, sampled alien voices reaching through the dark.
If Unbalance is a little too intense for your liking, you might enjoy the warmer, more engaging sounds of SCSI-9. Veteran darlings of the European dancefloor, Anton Kubikov and Maxim Miluytenko have been wedding house grooves to dub dialects and deep melodic refrains since the late 90s, establishing themselves with a sound that today lands somewhere between tech house and deep house. A consistent and noteworthy presence on the Kompakt roster over the course of their career, these underground stalwarts are one of Moscow’s best kept secrets.