Urban Soundtracks: Saint Petersburg according to Oligarkh

 

Imagine one of the most powerful pieces of music you have ever heard. The sound is exceptional, yet the concept so simple. You want to listen to it over and over and over again, and being exposed to it releases a thousand different emotions in you. Euphoria, melancholia, ecstasy, nostalgia: as if you are heavily in love but want to cry at the same time. Its beauty is undeniable, switching it off is impossible.

This feature on YouTube where it automatically suggests the next song, based on what you have been listening to before, has finally paid off. After binge-playing Mustelide a couple of weeks ago, somehow I found myself lost in a brilliant piece of music which completely blew me away: intense, creative, unique – and hauntingly beautiful.

Mixing dark electronica with elements of traditional Russian sounds, such as Tchaikovsky and Orthodox chanting, Saint Petersburg-based Oligarkh describes their pieces as crashing collages of sounds. Listening to their creations can only leave you with one conclusion: that is a wonderfully apt description of their style.

Not only is their music brilliant, the videos are a feast for the eyes, too. Raw Russian suburban life, details of folk culture, stretched snowy landscapes: if their audio is a crashing collage of sounds, then the visual aspect of their art is a dazzling collection of different ambiances.

Having just returned back home from touring China, Oligarkh’s Anton and Viktor kindly made us a mix reflecting their, and our, beloved city of Saint Petersburg. Just as eclectic as their own music, the genres of this stunning composition stretch from hiphop through jungle to Soviet rock, flawlessly mixed together and wrapped up – Oligarkh style.

 

Thank you so much for composing the mix and talking to us! You just finished your tour through China. Is it good to be back home?

Anton: It is always good to be back home after a long journey. It was snowing while we were in China. Here it is just cold, but sunny.

 

Your music is really unique, and you are masters at mixing unexpected sounds. How does Saint Petersburg inspire you in this process?

Anton: Saint Petersburg is the capital of the border between Russia and Europe. It always tries to be European, but with Russian roots, so the city itself is a mix of cultures.

Viktor: I have no inspiration, I don’t need it. I just listen to a lot of music. Art, music, and movies: that can inspire me.

 

How did you decide how the city can best be reflected in sound? How did you compose this mix, and what makes it a good representation of the city?

Viktor: Saint Petersburg is very beautiful when the night falls. At the moment I am very inspired by the night. It is a very beautiful city after dark, so I really like to walk around with a playlist and listen to the music.

Anton: We made a mix of some local producers and musicians of different ages and communities throughout the last 5 decades, mixed with young bass and juke producers. It has songs that are connected to the city itself: songs that are about the city, and some that were created by bands that became famous in our town.

Viktor: Saint Petersburg is the capital of experiments in art and music, so we are also experimenting. We are experimentators of the city.

 

In an interview, you said there should be a Boiler Room live session in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. If it were up to you, what should happen to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, the famous Saint Petersburg landmark whose future is disputed at the moment?
(after a short silence and some stumbling, Viktor apologizes for the interruption: their cat always opens the door and it’s too cold with the door open)

Anton: It is such a controversial point that the answer would bring us to one of the communities that are arguing about this question. I think it should stay a museum, or a monument.

Viktor: It is a religious place, totally.

 

But there are also a lot of religious influences in your music.

Anton: Yes, but they are not connected to Saint Isaac’s. It is connected to the whole situation and atmosphere.

Viktor: But St Isaac’s Cathedral is a very big place, so I think we must start from small churches. If the idea will be hyped, we can repeat it in a bigger venue. Any kind of religious building would be a good experiment, very interesting. We would be the first electronic musicians in Russia doing such a thing.

 

Is there anything typical or specific about Saint Petersburg’s music scene? For example, Moscow also a has a thriving scene, but as you said Saint Petersburg is the capital of experiments. What makes the city so tolerant to experiments?

Anton: I think it is the atmosphere, maybe because the city is on the very border of the state itself. We are so close to Finland and Estonia, so it easy to travel around and get influences in and out of the city. There is a completely different atmosphere in Moscow.

Viktor: People in Saint Petersburg are ready for crazy creativity, so I think local experiments are more brave than in Moscow. There is not a lot of ‘big money’ here, so there is no risk to lose everything you have. That is the tradition of creativity: always do something new, and always take risks. Because it is very interesting for the audience, and for everybody. Nobody cares if you do something usual.

 

Mixing Orthodox music is quite controversial, but you don’t seem to be afraid of risks. Anything goes, there are no restrictions?

Anton: There are no restrictions, but there are moral objections. We are not doing something just to hurt somebody’s feelings, but we are doing this according to our own taste, and not to make these kinds of mixes too funny or too clichéd. Of course there are some stereotypes, but it is not a bad comedy about Russia. It is a beautiful reinterpretation of its ideas, images, and sounds.

Viktor: All my life I have been mixing different things together, that’s my method of creativity. I always search for new ingredients and new creativity. These pieces of Oligarkh are pieces from inside, from experiences: I take some of my stuff and put it together. Because all of these things live inside, and are mixed inside me. What is happening in my music is a reflection of what is happening inside my soul and mind. That is honest creativity, I think.

 

There are many elements in your music that are typically Russian. Do you feel like people need some sort of understanding of Russia to fully grasp the idea of your music?

Anton: It is our duty to show Russia’s culture in the best possible way. It is really worth to explore! Maybe with our help, people will dig a little deeper than news headlines and will discover the great cultural heritage Russia has.

Viktor: If we were American, we would play country music, I think. But we are Russian, so we play Russian music. It makes sense.

 

Finally, on a more practical note: where in Saint Petersburg can we catch you for a beer?

Anton: You can find some cosy places on Rubinshtein Street, around the Five Corners, or on the Fontanka embankment. Or maybe in the yards of Konyushennaya Square.

Viktor: In the parks. Just take some beers from the shop and go to the islands. Take a rest, chill, and enjoy the view.

The playlist consists of the following tracks:

The Leningrad radio-call sign (“Город над вольной Невой”, “City on the free Neva”) of the Leningrad radio
Azeriff — I Love Sankt-Peterburg
ШЕFF — Питер – я твой! (feat. Купер)
Наум Блик — Бродский
Raumskaya — Vremya Pesok
Red Snapper — The Tunnel
4EU3 — We So High (Original Mix)
Поп-механика — Брр… Психоделия
BMB SPACEKID — 888 (Show Love!)
Инна Волкова (Колибри) — Ты не герой
Химера — ZUDWA
MUZ-C_4_EQPMNT — Adventure of Brave Device
Beardus x Total x Max Fadeev — Myortvie Tsveti
Аквариум — День радости

 

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