Siberian beats: from R&B to ambient electro, listen to the best music coming out of the region today

These DJs and bands are keeping Siberian techno and post-punk on the cutting edge

10 November 2017
Illustrations Sasha Baranovskaya

Not so long ago, the most popular Siberian musical exports to Moscow and St Petersburg fell into two genres: post-punk and its derivatives, and IDM. Srub, Buerak, Ploho and VHORE fell into the former camp, and Hmot, the Echotourist collective and Foresteppe (who, by the way, plays exclusively on analogue instruments) were just some of the names accounting for the latter. The situation is changing. Post-punk musicians have moved away from social critique, opting for lyrics about individual experience. Meanwhile, the electronic producers have gained stature internationally — Hmot appearing at Berghain would barely raise an eyebrow these days. It wouldn’t be fair to talk about anyone coming along to replace them — what we are witnessing is a new coexistence.

The various trends in the development of Siberia’s music scene coincide with what’s taking place globally. In guitar music, emo has come along to replace post-punk. In sample-based music culture, R&B is supplanting hip hop. The genre of electronic music gaining the most momentum at present is ambient. Techno hasn’t gone anywhere – the Berlin school of gloomy, broken rhythms, like dancehall, can be heard everywhere these days, and that includes Siberia.

Boredom (Novosibirsk)

This Novosibirsk musician has done everything possible to shroud every last biographical detail in secrecy. The influence of British artist Burial can be felt in the musician’s wish to stay anonymous, as well as in the sound of certain early tracks. Boredom’s style has evolved over time, however, developing into a thoughtful interpretation of ambient music, inducing a meditative state in the listener.

Bugaev (Irkutsk)

Nikita Bugaev released several albums last year, each of them very different, but with one common factor — every track functions as an exploration of one sonic element from different perspectives. The result doesn’t feel like treading water through soundwaves, though, on the contrary, the repetition allows distinctive aural landscapes to unfold.

Danny O’Lumerz (Beloyarsk/Novosibirsk)

After a relocation from Beloyarsk to Novosibirsk, this musician drew attention for post-dembel reiv (“post-discharge rave”), a mini album dedicated, as one might guess, to the end of his military service. He also cites small towns and long-haul truck drivers as sources of inspiration. The music can be characterised as constantly shifting, agile and even a little fairytale-like.

dj spasitel (Tomsk)

dj spasitel only has one track to his name at present, which can be found on a compilation released by Tomsk collective Russkiy Strannik. It’s entirely possible, though, that there are two or three people working behind the pseudonym. Spasitel crafts a Siberian take on dancehall — the romanticism is still there, but the sounds themselves are seemingly intentionally obscured. Admittedly, this only improves the music.

Grey Infantry (Barnaul)

Named after a Polish military hymn, the Grey Infantry project is responsible for a somewhat guileless, but nevertheless alluring techno style, reminiscent of his Scandinavian counterparts. The initial Grey Infantry recordings sounded a little crowded, but he has learned to trim the fat, and the new minimalistic approach is a definite fit for him.

Property of Mongolia (Omsk)

Property of Mongolia may sound a little pretentious to the listener, but of all the Siberian emo groups, their sound seems to be the jauntiest, boldest and spikiest. In a way, PoM personify that special spirit of youth — a feeling that cannot be contrived.

sleza (Tyumen)

Unrequited love, confusion, misunderstanding, loneliness — anonymous artists sleza doesn’t lay sole claim to this decadent concoction of emotions. But their use of intonation, gesture and breath in the music are certainly worthy of the listener’s attention. This approach is most successful in the collaborations with producer and friend flèche.

Roma Zuckerman (Krasnoyarsk)

Roma Zuckerman is signed to the label of one of Russia’s most renowned DJs, Nina Kraviz, but his music deserves appreciation in its own right. Zuckerman combines a certain coldness, absorption and precision in his tracks with a sense of risk and experimentation. When listening to his work, it might be easy to guess how a given track will end, but it’s impossible to know what the next one will sound like.

Spyashie Radary (Novosibirsk)

Spyashie Radary are no newcomers to the Siberian scene — the group’s five members have, between them, played in many collectives, and have now decided to start their own. The music on their first EP, Presdislovie (“Foreword”), is rather bleak (as are the lyrics). They are considered titans of the Siberian emo wave, thanks to their virtuosity in conveying this sense of discomfort.

Fayncord (Barnaul)

At first Fayncord might sound like just another musician using the language of modern R&B to create love songs, but clever quotes from Russian pop music, lyrics about the relationship between mankind and the law and counterintuitive turns of phrase can all be discovered in his music. A boisterous naïveté is still palpable here, but there is something deeper lurking behind the youthful energy.

Text: Artem Makarsky
Illustrations: Sasha Baranovskaya