You may have heard about the current trend for developing boutique synthesizers and other equipment in Russia. Such is the reputation of these devices that there is a growing demand across the globe. And many synth heads in the USA are keen to get in on the action.
This rise in modular development is no surprise considering the way Russian musicians and music lovers have embraced electronic music. When the fledgling witch house scene was left all but abandoned by the USA, Russian DJs adopted it as their own and nurtured it in a new and darker way. The hardbass genre originated in Russia in the late 1990s and soon spread to other European countries including Spain, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden. The scene is still going strong today with Russia and Spain leading the way.
As musicians in Russia have become more deeply involved in international electronic scenes, the need for innovative devices that can produce a broader range of sounds has risen. As a result, a whole host of engineers have started producing their own equipment and word has got out.
Showing the Way
But who are the prominent manufacturers? And what do you do if you are based in the USA and want to get your hand on this equipment?
Many of the top Russian synth makers are present at Moscow’s annual Synthposium festival, where producers, musicians, fans, engineers and experts gather to discuss, perform and showcase electronic musical instruments. ПРИБОР (Pribor), Zvukofor Sound Labs, Soma Synths (makers of the LYRA-8, see our interview with Soma Synths) and SSSR Labs were just a few of the boutique synth developers present at the 2018 edition of the event.
Many of these Russians manufacturers have websites available in English, where enthusiasts around the globe can purchase their equipment. But before you take the plunge, you should consider a few things.
Firstly, shipping charges from Russia could be quite expensive, so you will need to include this in your budget. Normally, your purchase price will be in Russian currency – Rubles – so you will need to take the currency exchange rate into consideration. Currency fluctuations could affect your final purchase price and banks might charge a fee for the conversion. Finally, there are strict customs rules for sending items to the USA and in some cases extra taxes and duties must be paid. Therefore, it is a good idea to check with US Customs before ordering to establish the correct procedure. Then liaise with the seller to make sure the package is shipped with the correct paperwork.
As well as buying new and exciting units, you could also get your hands on a reissue of the Soviet-era Polivoks Pro synth. This classic device has been given a new lease of life thanks to the revitalized Moscow synth scene. It is still the same machine at its core, but a few modern tweaks have made it even more reliable.
Image source: OriginalJambo via Wikimedia Commons
Another machine worth mentioning is the Black Corporation [Deckard’s Dream] developed by Russian genius Roman Filippov, who is now based in Tokyo. The founder and engineer of the Sputnik Modular has created a new 8-voice analog polysynth to help you build your very own Blade Runner inspired soundscape. At more than $4000, it doesn’t come cheap, but demand is already set to outstrip supply with preorders flooding in.
Image source: Brandon Daniel via Wikimedia Commons
You can hear samples of many of the machines on the maker’s individual websites or social media pages. As well as the models mentioned, there are many more available and plenty more in development. It really is a great time for synthesizer enthusiasts, with so many dedicated and talented engineers working on projects across Russia.