This weekend in St Petersburg hundreds of people crowded together in the darkness of a former Soviet-era cinema. They were united by one thing: the powerful effect of the music — mystical drone and dark ambient — that filled the space. That cinema is home to the Kuryokhin Centre, a contemporary art foundation that every year plays host to Electro-Mechanica, St Petersburg’s biggest and best festival of boundary-pushing electronic music. The festival is an important platform for Russian artists and also for bringing the world’s leading electronic music talent to Russia. Here’s five of the best from this year’s festival.
HTRK (pronounced Hate Rock) formed in Melbourne in 2003 by guitarist Nigel Yang, bassist Sean Stewart and vocalist Jonnine Standish, to perform vicious lo-fi noise rock, inspired by Lynchian imagery, protopunk and post-industrial ideas. As the name suggests, their slow, textured music, is a visceral challenge to the popularity of mainstream rock music in their native Australia. After a spell in Berlin, the band is now based in Britain, where their first EP, Marry Me, won critical acclaim. Despite Stewart’s tragic suicide in 2010, HTRK continue to perform and have toured with Liars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Horrors and Fuck Buttons.
Alexey Nikitin, aka Nocow, explores the world of experimental music and fragments, making releases on different labels such as Fauxpas Musik, DedPop and Origami Sound. Because of his frequent experiments with the sound, it’s hard to classify Nocow’s music — his latest works recall both old-school IDM (intelligent dance music) and UK producer Burial’s cold dub-ambient.
Monokle is the pseudonym of Vlad Kudryavtsev, a 26-year-old producer, multi-instrumentalist and qualified psychologist from St Petersburg. After getting bored of simple rhythms and catchy beats, Monokle rejected old methods of static listening and producing and started making his own melodious musical mosaic of IDM, glitch, ambient and drone.
British electronic trio Darkstar began their career on seminal dubstep label Hyperdub. Their follow-up to North (2010) — a crtitically acclaimed blend of melancholy electronic pop and ambient experimentation — is new album News From Nowhere, released on Warp, which has garnered comparisons with James Blake, Massive Attack, Animal Collective and Brian Eno.
Perforated Cerebral Party (Russia)
For two decades this St Petersburg techno project brought together multiple musicians under one banner, putting out making festivals and cassette mixes. Since 2006, however, PCP has been a duo, VovaPCP & Tsaritsa Logiki (the queen of logic), who play what they call Somatik Techno — heavy swinging techno beats, slowed down to 90bpm with a rasping bass-line and dark melodics — on their own label Somatik Sound System.