Music Portrait | posted 05.05.2020
Soviet Grail
Collective memory
Amid jazz experiments, electronic brutalism and psychedelic underground, Sergey Klimov digs for treasures for which musicians ended up in prison. With Soviet Grail, the Russian label boss traces the history of Soviet music.
Text Christoph Benkeser
Rubriken_sticker_detail_06

You can find the Vinyl records of Soviet Grail in the webshop of HHV Records.


At the beginning there’s the end of history. In 1991 the Soviet Union dissolutes, socialist realism disappears, the Cold War is over. The state-owned Soviet label Meldodjia — until then the only way to officially release music in the USSR — opens up towards the west. Only a few months before everything was different: »The fact is that most creative endeavors were destroyed at the very beginning since it was almost impossible to get approval from the culture Committee« says Sergey Klimov, owner of the Russian imprint Soviet Grail. And yet the 1970s and 80s brought forth music that eluded censorship: free jazz experiments, electronic Soviet brutalism, psyched out rock and tripping funk made their rounds in the socialist underground circuits — waiting to be discovered in a different world today.

Sergey Klimov describes himself as a music archaeologist. The St. Petersburg resident digs for musical treasures from a time when one could end up in prison for playing, recording or selling the wrong music. Klimov exhibits his excavations on his Soviet Grail imprint. »The main goal of the label is to preserve the musical heritage of the former Soviet republics. The music must be heard, and the story of its creation must be told«, he says. Back in 2006 Klimov started collecting records, first hip-hop, later electronic music. As his taste in music changed, he stumbled upon roots of jazz, soul and funk until he immersed himself in psychedelic rock of the 70s. The stranger and more exotic the music got, the more it fascinated him. »I plunged headlong into the Soviet music scene in search of psychedelia, groove and electronics. And I literally drowned in new discoveries.«

In 2013 Sergey Klimov founds ZBS Records, a platform for current representatives of the Russian music scene. »We are talking about a time slice from the beginning of the noughties to the present. And everything that happened before the actual collapse of the Soviet Union belongs to the Soviet Grail catalog« says Klimov who initiated Soviet Grail in 2017. »I began to find modern bootlegs with rare Soviet-era music on the Internet. This fact seriously upset me since I’ve always believed and continue to believe that any activity should be carried out within the framework of the law as well as common sense. And musicians should be rewarded for their work in the most worthy way. Therefore, the very fact of bootlegs’ appearance became not the only but still a certain kind of accelerator to action for me«, he explains. However, Klimov started to be not only interested in officially reissuing rare pearls from the Soviet era, but also in opening something that had been lost over the years. Some records didn’t make it through censorship, others dusted in the archives of musicians and recording studios. Klimov wants to excavate them. »I can say that I found myself in this work«, he says.

»I plunged headlong into the Soviet music scene in search of psychedelia, groove and electronics. And I literally drowned in new discoveries.« (Sergey Klimov)

Reissuing records from the USSR era is, however, a more difficult endeavor than releasing new music. »Since most of the musicians of those years are already aged and do not use social networks I have to do real detective work. But it is worth noting that in most cases the musicians of many bands knew each other well in the Soviet era, so when I had found some of them I was able, not without their help, to find other ensembles that interested me.« In this sense, Soviet Grail takes on encyclopedic nature. You don’t just hear the music, you also get to know the background of the bands. For this, Sergey Klimov traces the history — travelling thousands of kilometers through Russia and abroad. »I try to do interviews, learn the various subtleties of recording albums, the history of the formation of bands — all firsthand. No one can tell you about it better than the musicians themselves can.«

Sometimes this work requires luck, admits Klimov. »If there were no original master tapes, I was able to find copies of them or already digitized tapes in high resolution by musicians.« However, the process of reissuing remains complicated: »Some musicians took a responsible attitude to their work and bought their own master tapes from recording studios when the collapse of the USSR was already clear. But, unfortunately this was not common so most of the tapes were lost forever«, says Klimov who emphasizes that some records might never be released again. In addition, there happen to be cases when existing tapes crumble during digitization, leaving gaps during playback. »I have to replace these segments by taking the sound from the vinyl record, collecting pieces and restoring the recordings.«

Archeological reconstruction continues in 2020. Soviet Grail will release three albums from 80s jazz fusion ensemble Boomerang (Бумеранг). With records by Orlan and the Oleg Gotzkozik Quintett, Soviet Grail also continues to develop the theme of oriental jazz. »We will not ignore psychedelia in its various appearances — there will be the first time on vinyl releasing of the albums of the great Leningrad underground musician and composer Yuri Morozov: raw and overloaded hard rock and free jazz experiments«, assures Klimov. Besides, the reissue of the second album of the Kazakh ensemble Dos-Mukasan is in the pipeline as well as the only single from the funk ensemble Sintez and recordings by the Uzbek band Original. »They were banned in Soviet times due to a passion for Western culture, but you have never heard such disco before!«


You can find the Vinyl records of Soviet Grail in the webshop of HHV Records.

Your Comment
1 Comments
05.05.2020 19:25
palastbrand:
Allein der letzte Absatz, geil. Genau sowas brauche ich jetzt.
― answer
Related Articles
Music Portrait | posted 11.02.2021
Far Out Recordings
At the epicenter of the Brazil craze
Joe Davis is the train driver whose bandwagon a whole generation of Brazil-affine producers jumped on in the mid-nineties. With his Far Out Recordings label, he became the worldwide representative of Brazilian music culture.
Music Review | posted 15.05.2012
Sidi Touré
Koïma
»Koïma« can be translated into »Come and listen!«. And you should definitely follow this suggestion.
Music Review | posted 05.12.2012
Tunji Oyelana
A Nigerian Retrospective 1966-79
Full of lifeblood and with the heart at the right spot, Tunji Oyelana suggests a kind of happiness that can hardly ever be delivered in the form of music.
Music Review | posted 02.06.2014
Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté
Toumani & Sidiki
Toumani Diabaté und Sidiki Diabaté are not just father and son, but have also perfercted playing the Kora.
Music Review | posted 23.07.2014
Jorge Ben
Samba Esquema Novo
Re-released just in time for the World Cup. In 1963, Jorge Ben’s »Samba Esquema Novo« was the pioneer of a new musical era.
Music Review | posted 05.11.2015
Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal
Musique De Nuit
Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Ségal have recorded the largest part of their record »Musique De Nuit« on the roof of Sissoko’s house.
Music Review | posted 24.02.2016
Various Artists
Soul Sok Séga
Sturt Records has taken a good look at Mauritius – with their usual taste, they have chosen 20 curious tracks and have released them on »Soul Sok Séga«.
Music Review | posted 19.04.2016
Various Artists
This is Kologo Power!
In Ghana the so called »Kologo« music is ever-present. Arnold de Boer from The Ex now brings this great music into our living room.
Music Review | posted 21.04.2016
Various Artists
Wake Up You! The Rise And Fall Of Nigerian Rock, 1972-1977
The compilation »Wake Up You! The Rise And Fall Of Nigerian Rock, 1972-1977« confirms a stereotypical image – but has much more to offer.
Music Review | posted 20.02.2020
Priscilla Ermel
Origins Da Luz
Just released on Music From Memory, »Origins Da Luz« brings together the best songs of Brazilian musician Priscilla Ermel.
Music Review | posted 02.04.2020
Guilherme Coutinho E O Grupo Stalo
Guilherme Coutinho E O Grupo Stalo
»Guilherme Coutinho E O Grupo Stalo« from 1978 is an archival find not available anywhere. Mad About has now restored the record in all its details and reissued it.
Music Review | posted 25.03.2021
Various Artists
Silk Road Journey Of The Armenian Diaspora (1971-1982)
Darone Sassounian has compiled seven tunes for the compilation »Silk Road Journey Of The Armenian Diaspora (1971-1982)« on Terrestrial Funk.
Music Review | posted 30.03.2021
Selda Bağcan
Selda
The 1973 album »Selda« by Selda Bağcan is one of the best testimonies of Turkish music. Now it has been reissued.
Music Review | posted 07.04.2021
Rogér Fakhr
Fine Anyway
With »Fine Away«, the Habibi Funk label has compiled and reissued songs by Lebanese songwriter Rogér Fakhr.
Music Review | posted 21.04.2021
José Carlos Schwarz & Le Cobiana Djazz
Lua Ki Di Nos
With »Lua Ki Di Nos,« the Hot Mule label rewardingly unravels the life of poet, musician and resistance fighter José Carlos Schwarz.
Music Review | posted 08.05.2021
Ziad Rahbani
Bennesbeh Labokra… Chou?
With the reissue to »Bennesbeh Labokra… Chou?« the French label WeWantSounds expands the view on the work of the Lebanese musician Ziad Rahbani.
Music Portrait
Arsivplak
The Past, Re-presented
Volga Çoban’s Arsivplak label and Arşivplak edit project are two sides of the same coin: his approach to Turkish funk, disco, pop, rock and jazz is archival on the one hand and strives to shed a new light on old sounds on the other.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Grace Jones – Nightclubbing, 1981
Nightlife for androids: On »Nightclubbing«, along with one of the world’s leading rhythm sections, Grace Jones made sure that reggae and new wave would develop a new life of its own in 80’s pop.
Music List
Crumb
10 All Time Favs
Since their debut »Jinx« in 2019, Crumb have been considered the next big thing in music . Now their new album »Ice Melt« is out. The perfect opportunity to ask them about 10 records that have shaped, improved and educated them.
Music Interview
Adrian Younge
Sonic history lesson
»The American Negro« marks the beginning of a new chapter in Adrian Younge’s work. It is more frontal, more politically charged, and more self-assured. He wants to teach. We had the opportunity for an in-depth interview.
Music List
Leon Vynehall
10 All Time Favs
With his new album »Rare, Forever«, British producer Leon Vynehall continues the path he started with »Nothing Is Still« 3 years ago. Today he tells us 10 vinyl records that have shaped, improved and educated him.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Gil Scott-Heron – Pieces Of A Man (1971)
He was called the “Godfather of Hip Hop” because he wrote about drugs, racism and the Divided States of America. Gil Scott-Heron’s most successful album is now 50 years old – and more timely than ever.
Music List
Jenn Wasner (Flock Of Dimes)
10 All Time Favs
With her solo project Flock of Dimes, Jenn Wasner has just released her most personal and at the same time most substantially far-reaching album. We asked the musician to name 10 Vinyl records that have shaped, improved, and educated her.
Music Portrait
Gondwana Records
Soul And Character
As a DJ and musician, Matthew Halsall became a label operator. Starting with a local focus on Manchester’s contemporary jazz scene, the trumpeter, composer and bandleader has since given his imprint Gondwana Records a fairly international focus.
Music Column
Records Revisited
Yellow Magic Orchestra – BGM (1981)
Cues for the future: on their fourth album, »BGM«, the synth wizards of Yellow Magic Orchestra drafted background music for generations to come.
Music Portrait
Important Records
Deep Listening Forever!
Whehter it’s Pauline Oliveros, Éliane Radigue, Alina Kalancea or Caterina Barbieri: For 20 years now, Important Records has been like a well-stocked record shop for exciting sounds and music that needs to be heard intensely.
Art Portrait
Vincent de Boer
Like Jazz With Brushes
Dutch artist Vincent de Boer has become a regular band member of the British jazz band Ill Considered. He draws record covers based on the grooves he hears. For »The Stroke«, the process has now been reversed.
Music Portrait
Far Out Recordings
At the epicenter of the Brazil craze
Joe Davis is the train driver whose bandwagon a whole generation of Brazil-affine producers jumped on in the mid-nineties. With his Far Out Recordings label, he became the worldwide representative of Brazilian music culture.
Music List
Aaron Frazer
10 All Time Favs
»Introducing« is the name of Aaron Frazer’s first solo album. As the drummer of Durand Jones & The Indications, however, he is by no means an unknown name. So musically it’s off to the sixties. He tells us what actually influenced him musically.
Music Portrait
On The Corner
Bangers for the backroom
With his label On the Corner Records, Pete Buckenham serves a heady stew of afro-futuristic jazz concepts and contemporary street grooves beyond the genre ascriptions, and is opening the gates to the sound universe of tomorrow.
Music Portrait
Tidal Waves
Riding the Wave
A powerful wave has already washed many treasures ashore. Seen in this way, the name fits, because the Belgian reissue label Tidal Waves searches for, discovers and publishes pearls of music history believed to be lost.
Music Portrait
Mort Garson
Music for plants and people
He was involved in over 900 songs and reached number 1 on the Billboard charts, but Mort Garson’s current fame is based on an encounter with Bob Moog, whom he persuaded to give him one of his synthesizers. A rediscovery.
Music Portrait
Dark Entries
Between Disco, Goth and Porno Soundtracks
Since 2009, Josh Cheon has been running his label for underground music from the 1980s and those who want to be the next big underground hit. Next year he will have released over 300 records. We introduce you to the label from San Francisco.
Music Interview
Makaya McCraven
»I'm excavating sounds«
Makaya McCraven is one of the most leading jazz musicians of these days. Not only his hometown Chicago, but the whole world seems to be inspired by the free approach to the jazz heritage in his music. We had the chance for an interview.
Music List
Record Store Day 2020 – 3rd Drop
12 releases you should look out for
On October 24, 2020 the third of three Record Store Days will take place this year. More than 120 exclusive releases have been announced. We have picked out twelve records that we would like to recommend to you.
Music Essay
A Journey Into Turkish Music
Gastarbeiter*innen Musik
Simultaneously with the genesis of Anadolu Pop, a viral infrastructure is developing in West Germany. This »guest worker music« has always only touched the public consciousness. The economic exchange could have also been a cultural one.
Music Essay
A Journey Into Turkish Music
Anadolu Pop
Altın Gün, Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek or Gaye Su Akyol: more and more bands are again referring to the sound of Anadolu Pop, which was formed in Turkey in the 1960s. But is it a revival? We clarify.
Music List
Record Store Day 2020 – 2nd Drop
Another 12 releases you should look out for
On September 26, 2020 the second of three Record Store Days this year will take place. More than 150 exclusive releases have been announced. We have picked out twelve vinyl records that we would like to recommend to you.
Music Portrait
Melody As Truth
On the threshold of sound and silence
With his label Melody As Truth, Jonny Nash moves between balearic and ambient. The journey leads from new age to a new art of world chamber music.
Music Interview
Kelly Lee Owens
»We store emotions in our body«
The Welsh musician released her second album »Inner Song« which wipes tears from cried-out eyes with one hand after the closing set while opening the window into everyday life with the other. A conversation with Owens about rave memories, trauma sessions and her challenge with Four Tet.
Music List
Harmonious Thelonious
10 All Time Favs
With »Plong« Stefan Schwander shakes the foundations of club music. His new solo album as Harmonious Thelonious lets everyday noises develop an eerie life of their own. He told us which 10 records have have shaped, improved and formed him.
Music List
Record Store Day 2020 – 1st Drop
12 vinyl records to look out for
On August 29, 2020 the first of three Record Store Days will take place this year. More than 350 exclusive releases have been announced for this event alone. We have picked out twelve records that we would like to recommend to you.
Music List
Jonathan Bree
10 All Time Favs
Jonathan Bree hides his face behind a latex mask. Well, right. But that’s not the most remarkable thing about the new zealander. Because he is first and foremost a first-rate songwriter. He told us which 10 records have shaped, improved and formed him.
Music Portrait
Light In The Attic
Everything Is Illuminated
For almost 20 years, the Seattle-based record label Light In The Attic has been shedding light on those releases that have been in the dark. The fact that they focused on vinyl right from the start, today the label is considered a pioneer.
Music List
Jay Glass Dubs
10 All Time Favs
»Soma« means »body« in Greek and that’s who the music of Jay Glass Dubs is aimed at. »Soma« is also the name of his new album. This was the chance to ask the Greek musician for 10 Vinyl records that formed him. He answers in, well, Greek.
Music Portrait
WeWantSounds
Contagious passion
WeWantSounds has been publishing music from the 1970s and 1980s since 2015. The name of the label is a catchphrase. When the Parisian two-man company selects the reissues, genre and country borders don‘t matter.
Music Essay
Baltic & Finnish Jazz
Removing Boundaries
While jazz from London to L.A. is evolving a fresh pop sensibility or even tries to update the fusion heritage, cool flavors between new blood and nostalgia are cultivated on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Here the genre is cosmopolitan as well and yet totally distinct.
Music Portrait
International Anthem
In search of the truth
For six years the label International Anthem from Chicago has been reliably delivering jazz with their own attitude and idea. Although the founders refuse to be ascribed almost any kind of attribution to a genre. For them, the most beautiful sound is just always: the truth.
Music Portrait
We Jazz
With emphasis on We
We Jazz, that stands for edgy, surprising jazz from the north. And also not. Since 2013 the festival has been held in Helsinki, since 2016 the label was founded. Matti Nives mainly publishes Finnish bands there. And acts as one of the most important networkers of the local scene.
Music Portrait
Roy Ayers
Warm vibrations with universal attraction
The American vibraphonist, singer, songwriter and arranger Roy Ayers is one of the most sampled contemporary musicians. With songs like »Everybody Loves The Sunshine«, the soul jazz legend, which celebrates it’s 80th birthday in September, became the main inspiration for Acid Jazz in the late 90s. His new album “Roy Ayers JID 002” on Jazz Is Dead with Adrian Younge and ex-ATCQ producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad continues his golden period of the Polydor years in the 70s seamlessly.
Music Interview
Gary Bartz
»We no longer see reality«
The Grammy-winning soprano saxophonist shared the stage with Miles Davis, Art Blakey and Max Roach. Now he has recorded an album with British outfit Maisha — and discovered something new.
Music Portrait
Dekmantel
Infinite Holidays
For the better part of a decade now, the Dekmantel imprint from Amsterdam is successfully squaring the circle as label, festival and promoter of several events: Connecting innovation and underground with a quality standard that is by now globally recognized without failing its aspirations. An end? Even in times of crisis far away.
Music List
Rafael Anton Irisarri
10 All Time Favs
Ambient? Maybe. But with splinters of metal, neo-classical and other stuff. Rafael Anton Irisarri paints overwhelming sound paintings with thick brushstrokes. For us the American composer has revealed his influences.
Music Portrait
Muriel Grossmann
Abstraction with a sea view
Saxophonist Muriel Grossmann reaches abstraction on the Balearic Islands, rides the waves with hard bop and even amazes billionaires with standards. Who is the secret pioneer of the spiritual revival?
Music Portrait
Roza Terenzi
Rave in a time capsule
Roza Terenzi turns past rave days upside down and brushes it with jungle breaks and techno cuts. On »Modern Bliss« she finally ends up in the future.
Music Portrait
Soviet Grail
Collective memory
Amid jazz experiments, electronic brutalism and psychedelic underground, Sergey Klimov digs for treasures for which musicians ended up in prison. With Soviet Grail, the Russian label boss traces the history of Soviet music.
Music List
ADULT.
10 All Time Favs
ADULT. have been making music for more than 20 years now. And they still don’t want simple attributions, sunlight, self-deception. Instead they wanted to call us records, which they shaped, improved, formed.