Everything began in 1920, when a young Russian physicist presented a highly unusual musical
instrument that produced eerie, otherworldly sounds. This was actually the birth of electronic music as
such. Lev Sergeyevich Termen had developed the world’s first fully functioning electronic instrument – the
In 1957, the successful launch of a small ball-shaped satellite happened to be the starting shot of the
Space Race between the USSR and the USA, which led to the notorious Sputnik Crisis in the US. Maybe
it’s no mere coincidence that in the same year, the Soviet Radio founded an institution producing the
Space Age’s soundtrack: Vyacheslav Mescherin’s Ensemble of Electro-Musical Instruments. Suddenly,
the balalaika, the accordion and the guitar sounded as if played on another planet. In 1959, the Soviet
government asked Mescherin for an electronic sound recording of The Internationale, to be sent to outer
space on board of the first sputnik– extraterrestrial reactions haven’t been registered so far. Mescherin’s
ensemble played the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a regular basis. Until 1990, Mescherin had created
several hundred musical pieces for radio and television. Mescherin had to be inventive though. Electronic
music was considered inoffensive by the government, but did not receive special support either. That’s
why Mescherin designed and built many electronic instruments himself.
Inspired by the success of Soviet space programs and the conquest of the universe, visions of the future
dominated Soviet films, literature as well as music in the 1970es. Remarkable science fiction movies with
fantastic soundtracks merging Easy Listening, Electronic Psychedelia and Beat were shot. Unfortunately,
it’s almost impossible nowadays to get hold of this kind of music.
This past sonic world full of dated imaginations of the future is a seminal source of inspiration for a new
generation of Russian electronic musicians. A both ironic and affectionate retrospect to their childhood in
the Soviet Union is paired with present-day sampling and crossover techniques, which results in surreal
collages. Like Sputniks, the musicians are orbiting the earth, assimilating stimulations from the whole
world. Igor Vdovin sends Russian sailors to Brazil and a gypsy band to outer space. Dima Vikhornov and
Snegopady demonstrate what Russian folk music might sound like when played by Martians. Veteran
DJs Krugozory (66 and 67 years old) confront pompous military marches with nursery rhymes, refining
the melange with a bit of light Soviet jazz. Messer Chups pass Tchaikovsky’s nutcracker into alien hands,
where it is deconstructed and reassembled.
This highly individual kind of music, located somewhere between lounge, easy listening and radical
experimentation is most of all cultivated by Moscow labels Snegiri/Legkie and Solnze Records. This
scene’s creativity is getting more and more recognition. Igor Vdovin has been hired as a producer by
Russian superstar Zemfira. Bands like Messer für Frau Müller and Messer Chups are gaining popularity in
the Western world. This mix of old and new, mysterious East and modern Europe makes this music so
unique and fascinating. This compilation shows a somewhat different side of popular music in Russia.
Welcome to Café Sputnik. Take off and enjoy!