Elektro Moskva

“On a western device, you push a button and get a result. On a Soviet instrument, you push a button and get something.” Benzo

Elektro Moskva
“The Shrewish Taming of the Current” would be an appropriate subtitle of Elektro Moskva. This documentary by Elena Tikhonova and Dominik Spritzendorfer (Rotor Film) provides nothing less than the first concise analysis of Russian electronic music from the early 1910s to the present, and is much more than just a music film: Embedded in discourses about everyday matters, technology and philosophy, Elektro Moskva portrays these musical experiments as an allegory for sociopolitical terrain that has remained unexplored until now.
With a trove of archival material and location shots, this is the story of how the current was brought under control, to the accompaniment of synthesizers and drum machines, since the birth of the Soviet Union under Lenin. The history of Russian electronic music has always been a story of privations and appropriation. No two synthesizers are identical; instead, they´re “living organisms” in the sound of which oscillate inventiveness, political influence and Communist fantasies of what´s doable. The futuristic furor continues into the ´60s with projections of space colonization, and when such groups as Notchnoi Prospekt made New Wave compatible with the USSR in the ´80s. Today, these machines are in great demand, with collectors going to the country´s most remote corners to perform interactive historical research. Three protagonists of contemporary Russian experimental electronic music, Alexey Borisov, Richardas Norvila a.k.a. Benzo, and Dmitriy Morozov a.k.a. Vtol are given a chance to speak.
This “electromagnetic fairytale” tells of an intellectual curiosity whose poetry turns nothing into something, in spite of, or because of, repression. Elektro Moskva fills in the map of music production in the past in an equally informative and entertaining way, at the same time making a passionate call for autodidactic creativity: sonic utopias. (Heinrich Deisl)

Lo-fi sound, tonal imperfection: Sensation. Elektro Moskva is an essay-like narrative about Soviet and post-Soviet “electronic history” – from the Theremin and the synthesizer to the bugging devices of the KGB. Inspired by spherical-cosmic chill-out sounds and experimental tapestries of noise, collec- tors and tinkerers rave about the quasi-futuristic devices. This is an electrified pagan cult, somewhere between military exercise and popular culture: “You felt like in a spaceship.” You still do. (prod-note)

This film sketches a portrait of the experimental scene in Moscow and also includes rare footage of the godfather of electronic music, Leon Theremin. There are two types of machines. Western ones that always work and Russian ones, which you never know if they are going to work or not. So it is said in the documentary Electro Moscow, which takes us back to a fabulous piece of musical history that will surprise even true music buffs. The Austrian filmmakers Tikhonova and Spritzendorfer managed to track down some of these musical devices and tell the often bizarre stories behind them. Electro Moscow is a lively documentary that puts a big smile on your face. (IFFR)

official film website: Elektro Moskva


More Texts

Indie/Art House Distrib Cinelicious Pics Launches With "Giuseppe Makes A Movie", "Metalhead" and "Elektro Moskva"

EXCLUSIVE: LA-based post-production house and restoration specialist Cinelicious has launched spin-off U.S. distribution venture Cinelicious Pics, under the leadership of film restoration expert Paul Korver and ex-American Cinematheque head programmer Dennis Bartok. The new distributor plans on releasing an eclectic mix of 12 films a year spanning new American and foreign independent features and documentaries, starting this fall with a trio of titles: director Adam Rifkin´s outsider art docu Giuseppe Makes A Movie, Icelandic drama Metalhead, and space-age Soviet synth dance music docu Elektro Moskva, which will receive theatrical, VOD, and Blu-ray/DVD releases. Adding an archival element to its slate, Cinelicius Pics will also partner with its Cinelicious sister post-production company on restoring and releasing select art house and cult titles.

Bartok brings his years of film curation and programming to the new venture, which aims to give obscure foreign and indie titles a more lasting life on the art house theatrical circuit and on home video. "I´m spending sometimes months, years to track down obscure fringe genre by Jean-Pierre Melville or Japanese genre films," he told me. "Sometimes I track down a print that screens once, then we have to fly them back. We´re not exploring the full potential of these movies, the new films and the older films that slip through the cracks of film history."

Bartok, who´s organized retrospectives on Melville, Mario Bava, Kinji Fukasaku, Anthony Mann, Sam Fuller, and Monty Python and produced and programmed the third World 3-D Film Expo, will serve as EVP of Acquisitions and Distribution. Korver founded the 4k post house Cinelicious in 2008, overseeing post services on films from Richard Linklater´s Boyhood to the 4k Criterion remaster of Christopher Nolan´s debut film Following. He´ll serve as President and CEO of Cinelicious Pics. Kristine Blumensaadt, Esq is Head of Business Affairs.

Elektro Moskva — Documentary, 89 min., Austria. Welcome to a weird and definitely wired world of musicians, DIY circuit benders, vodka-swilling dealers and urban archaeologists/collectors, all fascinated with obsolete Soviet-era electronic synthesizers: primitive and ungainly beasts like the Polyvox, ESKO, Yunost and the fabulous ANS Photo-Electronic Synthesizer, a surreal device that translates abstract drawings into sound. This strange universe of "cosmic chill-out tunes", Space Age dance music and electronic chirps & tweets has been rescued by directors Elena Tikhonova and Dominik Spritzendorfer in this fascinating & cheeky documentary incorporating rare archival footage including the last 1993 interview with famed inventor Leon Theremin. In a bizarre twist, many of these instruments were a by-product of the Soviet military, created in the off-hours by scientist/inventors cobbling together spare transistors and wires — including Theremin´s Rube Goldberg-esque "Rhythmicon" from 1932, the world´s first rhythm machine, described by a museum curator as "space wreckage". A new generation of avant-garde and rock musicians has embraced the unpredictability and chaos of these instruments: as "Benzo" (aka Richardas Norvila) admiringly says, "On a Western device, you push a button and get a result … On a Soviet instrument, you push a button and get something". Rooting through discarded storage units for cracked and yellowing keyboards, pulling apart cheap toys and re-wiring their inanely cheerful voice boards, these guerilla circuit benders are creating new cosmic sounds from these forgotten "instruments with expanded abilities". In Russian and English, with English subtitles. A selection of the Rotterdam Film Festival.

read the full article: deadline.com
Orig. Title
Elektro Moskva
89 min
Orig. Language
English, french
Elektro Moskva (Image)
Elektro Moskva (Image)
Elektro Moskva (Image)
Dominik Spritzendorfer, Elena Tikhonova
Elena Tikhonova, Dominik Spritzendorfer
Dominik Spritzendorfer
Alexey Borisov, Vyacheslav Mescherin, Stanislav Kreichi, Richardas Norvila
Michael Palm
Yurji Klevanskiy
Sound Design
Atanas Tcholakov
Andrey Andrianov
Rotor Film
Executive Producer
Petra Popovic, Diana Stoynova, Dominik Spritzendorfer
Supported by
Innovative Film Austria, Land Niederösterreich
Available Formats
DCP 2K flat (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
Dolby Surround
Frame Rate
24 fps
Color Format
Blu-ray (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
Dolby Surround
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format
Digital File (prores, h264) (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
Dolby Surround
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format
Festivals (Selection)
Graz - Diagonale, Festival des österreichischen Films
Nyon - visions du réel - Festival Int. du Cinéma Documentaire
Sheffield - Int. Documentary Film Festival
Wroclaw - New Horizons Festival
Marseille - FIDMarseille International Film Festival
Kaunas Int. Film Festival
Paris - Festival Serendip
Cork - IndieCork Film Festival
Leipzig - Dok Leipzig - Int. Festival für Dok.- u. Animationsfilm
Victoria - Antimatter Underground Film Festival
Wiesbaden - exground on screen
Adelaide - Big Pond Film Festival
Köln - SoundTrack_Cologne
Joensuu - Rokumentti Rock Film Festival
Firenze - Festival dei Popoli
Milano - Filmmakers Festival
Rotterdam - Int. Filmfestival
Buenos Aires Festival Int. de Cine Independiente BAFICI
Salem - Salem Film Festival
Bogotá - Muestra Documental
Birmingham - Flatpack Festival
Sofia - International Film Festival
Bogota - Alta Fidelidad Festival del Cine
Mexico City - Distral: cine y otros mundos
Paris - Pariscience
Berlin - doku.arts
Göteborg – Int. Film Festival