New East Digital Archive

Space sleeves: the cover art behind the biggest Soviet cosmic disco records

LPs from Soviet state-owned label Melodiya

23 October 2015

With the success of our Soviet Space Disco mixtape, produced to coincide with the exhibition Soviet Space Archive: Configuration II at Calvert 22, The Calvert Journal takes another look at how the pursuit of space travel influenced music from the Soviet era, this time by browsing through vinyl covers. Collected by curators Rory McCartney and Ella McCartney and played at the exhibition opening, this selection of LPs were first released by state-owned label Melodiya, the sole record company until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Turning 50 last year, this musical relic was responsible for recording studios across Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and for distributing Soviet artists such as Zemlyane and Vladimir Vysotsky abroad. Rather than Europe and America, the cover art suggests that some of the musicians had set their sights instead on outer space. “The Latvian group Zodiac played experimental synthesised sounds and effects together with more conventional disco elements, creating what they called ‘Cosmic Space Disco’. Zodiac’s second album Music in the Universe (1982) was inspired by visiting cosmonauts in Star City and hearing their personal accounts about space discovery,” the curators explain. “The titles of the tracks The Mysterious Galaxy and The Other Side Of Heaven along with the cover artwork by Juris Truls and Māris Ārgalis relate directly to Soviet missions into space.”

Soviet Space Archive is an ongoing project by Rory McCartney and Ella McCartney. Showcasing photos and space ephemera, the exhibition explores the many ways an archive can be assembled. Soviet Space Archive: Configuration II is on display at Calvert 22 until 31 October.