From dark techno to J-pop style electronica to field recordings in Northern forests: the new sound of Russia has no limits. In Moscow, Siberia, New York and Berlin Russian producers are looking for new beats, new synths, new voices — and the 32 acts below are just a fraction of the huge, loud wave. Is the fact that they are Russian even relevant in today’s global world? 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.
The founder of Moscow-based Johns’ Kingdom label, Pavel Milyakov aka Buttechno is famous internationally for composing soundtracks for Gosha Rubchinsky’s shows. The designer’s longterm collaborator, he has just released a vinyl at Dover Street Market, which is sold together with Rubchinsky’s book, Youth Hotel. Milyakov usually spends his free time art directing Moscow-based club NII and making his own art.
Moscow-based producer Oleg Buyanov aka OL specialises 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. Buyanov’s music also reflects the spirit of contemporary Moscow: his recent EP Pobeda is dedicated to one of his favourite Moscow spots since the mid-90s, Victory Park, and to all the people he has met there over the years.
The identity of Moscow-based producer Art Crime is rather mysterious. His tracks are both immersive and introspective, fit for losing yourself on the dancefloor and staying at home enveloped in murky synths and piano chords. His debut Never Look Back was released at New York-based label WT Records in 2015.
Noise duo Love Cult (aka Anya Kuts and Ivan Zoloto) is at the heart of the underground music scene in Karelia in the north of Russia. Their dark and haunting experimental tunes have won them fans in Tokyo, New York and London, and their cassette label Full of Nothing has featured the key emerging music talents from all over Russia, including Moa Pillar and Hmot.
NV, 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. Shilonosova is also singer in garage band Glintshake and an active participant in the Red Bull Music Academy.
Stanislav Sharifullin aka Hmot is a one of the most influential young producers on the new Siberian electronic music scene. Based in Krasnoyarsk, he’s the founder of the Klammklang cassette label and widely renowned for his dark, sophisticated beats.
Fedor Pereverzev aka Moa Pillar is adept at merging all kinds of genres: from forward-thinking electronica or pounding dark techno to sound art. The Muscovite describes the genre he works in as “spiritual bass”, a deeply dark and atmospheric journey into the future of cults, religions and self-awareness.
The music of Anastasia Tolchneva (Lovozero) and Tikhie Kamni, her collaborative project with Fedor Pereverzev (Moa Pillar) is an unlikely contemporary rebirth of Russian folk in the hands of two very talented young musicians. Sonic diaries exploring Russia’s valleys and hills, rivers and lakes, the songs mix tender vocals, deep drones and minimalist piano.
Mira Ishome is originally from Krasnodar in the south of Russia but has also lived in Siberia and Moscow. She merges techno with melancholic electronica, ambient and bass, and her DJ sets are familiar among Berlin crowds.
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, that goes down well on tours in China and the US and has got him releases on labels worldwide. Devayin is also co-founder of the Hyperboloid record label and releases his more abstract tracks under the name of Gulkstra Artikler.
Born and based in Karelia in the Russian North, Sergey Suokas is sometimes called the Ricardo Villalobos of Petrozavodsk (according to his friends at the Full of Nothing label). His music is based on sound collages, prepared live instruments and field recordings. His latest album, Being, was divided in two parts: light, connected to the sun and its cycles, and dark, connected to nothingness. This conceptual approach only adds to the popularity of his tracks.
Moscow-based singer and producer Yana Kedrina aka Kedr Livanskiy has just released her debut single Sgoraet at Mike Simonetti’s 2MR records. She produces slightly melancholic lo-fi tracks with intricate 80s synths. Her songs follow unconventional patterns to precisely hit a nerve. Also worth mentioning, Kedrina is one of the few women in the male-dominated world of Russian electronic music.
Vtgnike's music has been described as Russian juke. Samples of Russian pop and R&B are thrown together with a frenetic footwork beat, making for a strangely melancholic and introspective combination. His debut LP Dubna, named after a town north of Moscow, was released at Nicolas Jaar’s Other People label.
Philipp Gorbachev certainly stands out among his counterparts: he seems to exist outside of any scene and enjoys international recognition, while his tunes, built on well-made techno with a desolate voiceover, possess a truly timeless power. His recent project, live act Philipp Gorbachev and The Naked Man, pushes the boundaries of the genre by bringing in elements of punk and sometimes even performance art.
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.
New York-based producer and artist Slava Balasanov is part of the new generation of global creatives working with post-internet aesthetics. He is fascinated by Chinese Adidas knock-offs and tacky Russian pop, and his synthetic beats channel the future where high and low culture will be forever intertwined.
DJ duo Yung Acid are based between Kazan and Moscow. DJs Mark Griboedov and Ilsur Kosichka specialise in what they describe as a combination of “dirty house, dry techno and pushy grime”. Together, they also run their own label Get Busy! and regularly organise club nights.
Moscow-based Lapti (not very Google-friendly as the word means shoes made of tree bark in Russian) produces captivating tracks which sound like atmospheric soundtracks to a non-existent film. Lo-fi samples and 80s sounds put together in a unique way create a strange feeling of nostalgia for the future.
Moscow-based 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. Regardless of the genre, his live shows are always packed and his beats and lyrics perfectly reflect the feelings of Russian millennials.
Sasha Kholenko aka DZA is one of the pioneers of Russian electronic music and abstract hip-hop. He also has been running his influential label How2make for more than a decade. Recently DZA have been touring around the world with Russian band Mumiy Troll.
St Petersburg-based duo Delicate Features live up to their name with tender female vocals, distant beats and prolonged synth sounds. Signed to LA-based label NOT NOT FUN, they provide the perfect soundtrack for travelling to distant worlds without leaving your bedroom.
Moscow-based duo Celebrine & Alien Delon are signed with Dutch label NON and compose 80s-inspired dark electronic pop which sometimes unexpectedly references the heritage of Russian pop music. The band’s Katya Logacheva and Ilya Dmitriev both have an academic background in music and art but that doesn’t stop them from creating a dark and sexy groove.
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.
St Petersburg-based Kirill Sergeev aka Kito Jempere (and previously St Petersburg Disco Spin Club) specialises in Chicago-style house, not what you’d expect to come out of a Nordic city. He has released music at numerous international labels including Fata Morgana, Dirc Crew and Glenview, and also plays live with a sizeable band.
DJ and producer Inga Mauer is based in Amsterdam but is more likely to be found on tour around Europe. Her tunes are made to set dancefloors on fire — heavy, echoing beats recalling Berghain merge with atmospheric synths — but done skillfully enough to still be enjoyable in headphones.
London-based producer Lokiboi hasn’t cut ties with Russia but his music has significant global appeal and is played in clubs in the US, UK and all over Europe. He makes dance-floor filling techno and house, citing old-school Paradise garage grooves among his main inspirations.
The mysterious project ЗОЛОТО (Russian for gold) deserves a mention for its tales of the mean streets and forgotten corners of contemporary Moscow. Fast and furious minimal EDM is overlaid with nervous barking vocals summoning up the violence and petty crime of the suburbs and providing a unique insight into the dark atmosphere of the capital.
Bergen Kremer is a low-key side project of Vlad and Irina Parshin from Motorama, a major Russian indie rock band based in Rostov-on-Don. The 80s-sounding synthesisers and drum-machine in combination with cold male vocals have a soothing effect and evoke strange nostalgia.
Moscow-based Mark Lukianov aka Jeff Boomhauer (good luck filtering through all King of the Hill-related content which comes up on Google) belongs to Johns’ Kingdom’s underground community and composes beautiful dense techno you can easily lose yourself in — often with romantic titles referencing the American dream like Cadillac Eldorado or Daytona Beach, Florida.
Aleksei Nikitin aka Nocow grew up on the bank of the Finnish Gulf outside of St Petersburg. His approach to music, as he once pointed out, comes from being surrounded by nature with its enveloping sounds. Nocow’s approach is ever shifting — from 80s-inspired tunes to ambient — but the sound environment he creates is always immersive.
Moscow-based DJ and producer Artyom Ryazanov aka Miracle Libido not only contributes to the development of contemporary electronic music by creating something new, he is also very interested in the archives. He unveils forgotten treasures, like this collection of Soviet jazz for The Calvert Journal, and runs Eastetika Zvuka, a project which involves contemporary Russian producers composing new soundtracks for Soviet silent films and cartoons.
Leonid Lipelis is one of the most in-demand Moscow DJs of the moment, while worldwide his record Lipelis Edits released by L.I.E.S. has scored five-star reviews from the music press. He composes warm, vibrant sexy disco and house perfectly suited to contemporary dancefloors.