RA reviews Gost Zvuk 5 Years compilation

The vital Russian label celebrates five years with a confident compilation of leftfield techno and experimental music.Gost Zvuk’s aesthetics are inspired by the history of Russia. The label’s name is from the acronym for gosudarstveniy standart (or “state standard”), a set of technical standards established in the Soviet Union as part of the effort to standardise the production of everything, from ice cream to flippers. The term stands for the dignity of having a worthy domestic product—something Gost Zvuk has been cultivating in Russian electronic music for the past five years.

This anniversary compilation draws from the extensive network Gost Zvuk has developed as a key member of the scene in Russia. It’s particularly closely affiliated with the now-defunct venue NII in Moscow, which had a cult status among people interested in experimental music. Its founder, Burago, opens Gost Zvuk 5 Years with the melancholic “Москва” (“Moscow”), a track that, while wonderful, makes me think of New York City and William Basinski’s tapes instead. However, it’s not just the capital that’s represented. The duo Gamayun, originally from Smolensk, shares “Kapel,” where synthy waves and computer bleeps go hand-in-hand with the soulful electric guitar riffs and analogue-sounding kicks.

The tracks on Gost Zvuk 5 Years vary in style, united by an abstract Russianness rather than a particular genre. One of the artists who has come close to defining what that actually means is Kedr Livanskiy. Her signature hazy vocals and nostalgic flair shine on “Что ты говорил” (“Things You Said”), a localised adaptation of the classic house groove. It was produced in collaboration with AEM Rhythm-Cascade, AKA Flaty, an artist who’s been alongside Gost Zvuk’s founder, Ildar Zaynetdinov, from the conception of the label with OL and Vtgnike. The latter appears with “Designer Saudade” and carries on the palpable influence of hip-hop, around which a predecessor of Gost Zvuk, RAD, was formed.

As Zaynetdinov often says, there’s no future without the past. Russian electronic music is rooted in St Petersburg’s squat flats, which were occupied by the avant-garde visual artists throwing parties at night during the turbulent early ’90s. Though the clubbing experience in the northern capital can feel monotonous, the music being released from Russian artists is a breath of fresh air—from the innovative techno of Trip to the 90-BPM sound of Somatik Sound System to this compilation.

The local scene has significant capacity for experimentation probably because it still mostly consists of bedroom DJs, which the compilation’s cover sentimentally reflects. There are plenty of newcomers here whose presence underlines this idea. L contributes a quirky track with random, screechy chords. Stankevich, an up-and-coming star, delivers a whimsical dance floor tune called “Covert Operation.” It’s a testament to Gost Zvuk’s role in the scene that the compilation includes so many people who keep pushing it forward.