Russian Techno: A beginner's guide to the best DJs of Moscow’s rave scene

When people think about the music of the Motherland, the likes of Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and Borodin probably come to mind - but this is the 21st century, and Russia’s underground DJs are making waves at home and abroad.

The fall of the Soviet Union was good for Russia's rave culture. Following a fledgling 1990s peppered with experimental electronica and unpoliced underground parties in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Internet has given Russian techno artists the platform to take their sounds overseas and compete with the best DJs in Berlin and London. These are the most important innovators flying the Russian flag on the global techno scene.

Nina Kraviz

If you’ve been to a nightclub over the last ten years, your ears will likely be attuned to the smooth tunes of Russia’s very own techno goddess. Predominantly stemming from the success of her 2012 singles Ghetto Kraviz and I’m Week, the Irkutsk (Siberia) native has won every accolade in her genre, not to mention a monthly residency on BBC Radio One in 2016 and a Mixmag “2015 Label of the Year” award for her Berlin-based record label Trip.

Kraviz’s music brims with her confidence, impudence, and sexiness and the former Propaganda club resident often lends her hypnotizing vocals to her tracks. She’s also brought a welcome feminine touch to the scene. In contrast to her production, Kraviz’s energetic DJ sets are always intimate, personifying all the braggadocio and experimental fervor that makes techno the genre it is. Try stopping her!

Other great tracks: I’m Gonna Get You, Desire, IMPRV, Hotter Than July

Andrey Pushkarev

After cutting his teeth at online radio station DeepMix.ru, the DJ hailing from the tiny Urals city of Votkinsk first gained international acclaim for his impressive 6,000-piece vinyl collection. Over the past few years, Pushkarev’s worldwide tours have proved a big draw, providing the subject for 2013 Russian documentary Kvadrat.  Eventually accumulating a production discography, Pushkarev has developed a mature yet uplifting format for summery tech house. His soulful tracks have a knack for blending mellow drums and spacious melodies with stout basslines and eerie, lingering synths.

Other great tracks: Picea Abies, Before the End, Three Roads

Nikita Zabelin

Boasting a string of recent releases on Nina Kraviz’s Trip label, the Moscow veteran has played a pivotal role in Russia's techno renaissance. Claiming that his haunting music is driven by “technology and alternative realities” rather than songs, the minimal producer's industrial style is rigorously loyal to the decadent discord of Detroit techno.

Zabelin's music is innately political and disruptive, projecting the chaos of a technology-driven modern life onto the severe backdrop of post-Soviet Moscow. He's nonetheless a proud expounder of his country's sounds, showcasing the best of Russian talent with his weekly Resonance broadcast on Metropolis FM.

Other great tracks: Rush, Serpentin, I'm An Employee I Do Not Sleep

Inga Mauer

Perhaps best known for her off-stage controversies, newcomer Mauer grabbed international headlines in August when she was allegedly assaulted by security guards at Helsinki’s Flow Festival. 

In underground spheres, however, the proactive Russian DJ is better known for making waves as a champion of icy, marauding techno of the highest quality. The St. Petersburg local’s superbly unpredictable music is at once dark, yet synthy and melodious, remaining mellow and dormant one moment, then instantly transporting itself to a violent obscurity the next. If her recent EP Shtum 012 is testament to her ability, expect to hear big things from Mauer in the near future. Keep an eye out for her!

Other great tracks: Dystopia, I’ve Nothing to Say, Metadose

Philipp Gorbachev

By now a legend at DJ broadcasting channel Boiler Room, Moscow’s Gorbachev (bearing no relation to the ex-Soviet leader, although his father, incidentally, is also called Mikhail) has been knocking around long enough to have solidified his status as one of Russia’s leading techno pioneers. The Moscow heavyweight has worked with a succession of impressive labels, including Kraviz’s Trip and illustrious German outfit Cómeme, not to mention his own eponymous brand PG Tune.

Refusing to confine himself to one genre, Gorbachev’s turbulent style is as reminiscent of New Order-esque post-punk as it is of contemporary techno. The artist’s massive snares and daunting monotone Russian vocal mantras embody a sound that’s as humble as it is colossal and tumultuous, providing us with a momentary glimpse into the anarchic world of 1990’s Russia. Probably not music for a dinner party...

Other great tracks: In The Delta, I Want You So, Ivan Come On Unlock the Box

Easy Changes

Sharing their time between Moscow and Berlin, Russian duo Denis Kaznachev and Kirill Silantyev have received widespread acclaim for their label Nervmusic, which they claim is “Russia’s first minimal label.”

Perhaps the most experimental outfit of the bunch, Easy Changes have an erratic, percussion-heavy style with a palpable five-in-the-morning feel to it. Their composed, compelling ambience takes its time, making room for chimey timbres and stripped-back, avant-garde mystery. Perfect background music for pretty much any scenario!.

Other great tracks: Sviat Gepard, Indeweed for JG

Gorje Hewek & Izhevski

Usually appearing together, this Moscow-based duo creates dreamy, therapeutic tech house, with the likes of Bon Iver in their remix discography. The pair’s ethereal sets on Shanti Radio caught the attention of many earning them a headline spot at Burning Man 2016. Their stunning 2013 track Voltiger also received the remix treatment from Swiss superduo Adriatique, becoming one of the biggest underground cuts of 2013. Press play and let yourself be transported to the beach.

Other great tracks: Aureol, After Rest, Inspire

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