Friday, 23 February 2018

Mikhail Chekalin - Meditative Music For A Prepared Organ, Vol. 1 & 2 (rec. 1979-1983)

Been absolutely fascinated by this guy for a while now, so time to start posting his music.  Mikhail Chekalin was born in Moscow in 1959, and since the late 70s has worked out of his basement studio carving out a prolific niche in symphonic electronica, with detours into shorter-form work, film music and even solo piano.  Chekalin had difficulty getting much music released in the Soviet 80s, even getting unwelcome KGB attention for having such sophisticated tech squirreled away.  His big break came in 1990/1 when a group of Moscow artists known as 'The Twenty' started featuring his music at their M'Ars Gallery, leading to a series of 12 LPs of his early work being released on the Melodiya label with the artists' paintings as their covers.

Three of these albums were Meditative Music For Prepared Electricorgan, Vols. 1-3, reissued in 2003 as the two 77-minute CDs in today's post.  Described as "electric organ with effects, solo vocal... all music was produced in one take, at a concert session, without recourse to multitrack technologies... no synthesisers [except for one track]", these releases felt like an ideal starting point for me.

The two 25+ minute tracks from LP 1 sit together on CD 1, with Meditation With Rhythm-Beating up first.  After about 10 minutes of just spacey organ fades out, Chekalin adds in his haunting wordless vocal, and the slow rhythm track only makes a brief appearance around the 20 minute mark.  Sounds Of Colour starts off more sparkly and melodic, but then things get much darker and more abstract for the rest of the epic journey.  A definite comparison could be pre-synth Klaus Schulze, and the vocal parts at their most austere and ritualistic even made me think of Jarman-soundtracking TG.
LP 2 started out with the two versions of Symphonietta Of The Air, which round out CD 1 here.  On CD 2, the seven tracks offer more variety, kicking off with the brief atmospheric Adagio (LP 2) and the almost Roedelius-esque chirpy classicism of Bucolic Tunes (LP 3).  By contrast, the more rhythmic Physiological Toccata and Ostinato-Asthenia (both LP 3) have a harshness closer to Asmus Tietchens, but the remaining tracks from LP 2 are back in the 'Meditative' zone.  The longest of these is the 19-minute Meditation With Little Bells, which is nice and spaced, almost Vangelis-like, as is the only synth appearance on the abstract Impromptu With Bells.

For all the comparisons I've noted, they're only really surface similarities, and Chekalin's sound world is very much his own, with these two collections for electric organ serving as an ideal introduction to his early work.  Will definitely be exploring further, and posting more albums here in the months to come.

Disc 1 mega / Disc 1 zippy
Disc 2 mega / Disc 2 zippy


  1. Thanks for introducing this to me - my life in now nearly complete!

  2. Interesting post. I know of him via his releases on the Erdenklang label out of Germany.
    The description alone caught my attention. I am wondering if the music is anything like Peter Michael Hamel's solo material(i.e. the keyboardist from Between).

    1. hmmm... would need to refresh my Hamel listening [mental note made!] but from what I recall, yeah, bit of an overlap.

  3. very interesting. can't wait for more.