In the story of Russian popular music today and its ongoing development, there is always one major stumbling block that new projects face at some point: language. Hence the decision of many independent performers to opt for English or, on occasion, French as a way to hopefully increase their attractiveness to a larger marketplace. One could argue, however, that electronic and dance music have a clear advantage here, in that they are both styles which incorporate a large amount of instrumental material. The absence of words bothers nobody and, in fact, may even be the norm.
How, though, to get one's work into the same physical or digital venues as Western DJs or electronic whiz-kids? Russia's most famous DJs, by way of example, do play internationally, but their bread and butter are both earned at home.
A second option would be to create an online portal to which Western performers would (hopefully) come. The simplest approach here would be simply to leave the gateway open and allow anybody who so wishes to upload their material. The history of this tactic is not a terribly happy one on Slavic soil. Russia's biggest music portals have, in some cases, turned into dumping grounds. Good recordings can still to be found in such places, of course, but it almost vanishes under waves of nastiness.
Internal search engines can do little to help, even if based on supposed filters, such as degrees of popularity. Rubrics like "Most Played" or "Recent Favorites" usually leave the strong impression that certain artists spend large sums of money on bad coffee and then sit up all night, voting for themselves... over and over.
The dance music portal Radio Tochka - with time and patience - has built itself into a happy exception. "Tochka," we should point out, is a word with many meanings. Literally - or most often - it means "point," "spot," or "period." It can also refer to a certain place, such as a street corner - and in modern slang it designates, more specifically, a place outdoors where prostitutes gather. A radio "tochka" could be taken as the place or "point" online from which a signal is broadcast, yet for many Russian listeners, the two words together most likely conjur memories of a wall socket in Soviet kitchens, into which small cable-radio amplifiers were plugged. A old example is shown above, circa WWII, whereas the model below comes from more recent times, seemingly the 1970s.
In other words, this was the "point" from which a constant signal came... one that could never be stopped or turned off! There was only a volume button.
Radio Tochka, which began as an elegant-looking blog, has now become an even better-looking site with a wealth of media and, most importantly, an invitation-only listening policy. Full participation is only possible if you have been invited to join by an existing member. This, supposedly, will lessen the number of idiots. The degree of selectiveness here has also made the venue much more appealing to overseas DJs. The site now claims - quite rightfully - that it now uses "cutting-edge web technology" in order to develop further still, beyond its humble origins in 2005: "RTS.FM represents tech house, minimal house, deep house, minimal techno, techno, electronica and other genres of modern electronic music."
RTS.FM represents tech house, minimal house, deep house, minimal techno, techno, electronica and other genres of modern electronic music.
This is true.
The radio station operates not only from its home pages: a MySpace and/or Live Journal presence is also palpable. Nontheless, those secondary venues only exist, in essence, for the purpose of bringing traffic back to RTS.FM. The MySpace page, by way of example, informs us that its creator is unmarried and that his star sign is Aries. He neither drinks nor smokes; he doesn't want children, either. His education finished at the high school level.
That information wasn't requested, and it certainly doesn't serve any direct purpose. You're better off heading straight for RTS.FM, home of the small studio you see below, used for the sets created by resident DJs. There's not much room for dancing.
The station currently has twenty resident DJs - all locals - some of whom will be the object of our attention in the near future. In the meanwhile, we should focus on one DJ who not only constitutes part of the station's current line-up, but himself - last night - played here in Los Angeles. The reason for the international connection is that the man in question - Ed Karapetian was born in Moscow, yet has lived here in California for the last eleven years. Over that time he has founded the Pro-Tez label, to which we've given a fair amount of attention, and developed a solid career DJ-ing. He can be seen in the first and last pictures of this post.
A few words regarding his own work also operate as a decent context for the kinds of sounds one can expect from Radio Tochka. His efforts are directed towards a single goal, the desire "to work with a broad roster of artists who themselves create a wide scope of innovative approaches toward minimal electronic music. The kind of sounds that work well both on the dance floor and in the living room. This means exploring a wide range of microscopically intricate compositions. They're based on a foundation of minimalist music - yet at the same time serve to develop original ideas." Here are 73 minutes of proof.
The restrained, often polite sounds at Tochka work in the same way, offering a soundscape that is indeed fitting for either a dancefloor or the nearest divan. In a word, Tochka is developing into one of the most intelligent and genuinely international projects in Russian popular music. It already has an influence, as we see, in Southern California, as well as other locales worldwide. As the picture below shows, Karapetian does make it back to Russia from time to time. If a Radio Tochka DJ can manage that kind of international connection physically, there must be great hope for other ways of interfacing that require no more than the flick of a switch.
Just like the old Soviet receivers.