Welcome to the weird and definitely wired world of avant-garde rock 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 and tweets has been rescued by directors Elena Tikhonova and Dominik Spritzendorfer in this fascinating and cheeky documentary incorporating rare archival footage, including the last interview with famed inventor Leon Theremin.
In a bizarre twist, many of these instruments were a by-product of the Soviet military and KGB, created in the off-hours by scientist/inventors cobbling together spare transistors and wires to make their own synthesizers — 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 Russian avant-garde 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 guerrilla circuit benders are creating new cosmic sounds from these forgotten “instruments with expanded abilities.” (Note courtesy of Cinelicious Pics.)
DIR/SCR/PROD Dominik Spritzendorfer; DIR/SCR Elena Tikhonova. Austria, 2013, color, 89 min, DCP. In English and Russian with English subtitles. NOT RATED
“[A] droll and infectiously lively tribute to pioneers of futuristic sounds.” –Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter.
“A film of sovereign intelligence.” –Le Monde.
“Currently one of the most important films on musical history.” –Heinrich Deisl, Skug Magazine.
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