previously noted, the first substantial release of Chekalin's music was a series of 12 LPs in the early 90s, and Symphony-Phonogram was one of them. As on the Prepared Organ albums, we are given the assurance that "all music is performed live, in real time... without recourse to sequencer technologies and without computer editing".
After a dramatic opening section of dark and brooding keyboard riffs and shrieks of eerie synth over the top, The Symphony-Phonogram settles down in its second and third parts to more understated dark ambience and occasional martial rhythm tracks. Vangelis is still an obvious reference point, particularly in Part 2, but the relative absence of studio gloss definitely works in Chekalin's favour, making the minor key melodies and percussion all the more unsettling and effective. By Part 4, Chekalin has started to add his trademark wordless vocals to the mix, with the brief Part 5 being particularly ominous and ritualistic. All in all, The Symphony-Phonogram is a really solid electronic work, one that a lot of post-industrial listeners in the West would've lapped up in the 80s if they'd had access to it then.
The additional tracks on this reissue start with 1984's Night Ritual For Choir And Drums, which occupies similar territory but with a stronger rhythmic element as per the title. If someone had told me this was an outtake of early Coil jamming around, it would've at least been plausible. Next up is Psychodelic Fresco, apparently a 1980 live recording direct to cassette "at an underground session", displaying Chekalin's atmospheric talents well on their way to maturity. After a short fragment from the mid-80s, the CD ends with Democracy Of Noise from 1989. It's not as strong as what's preceded it, but I've left it in anyway as it shows the variety in Chekalin's sound.
mega / zippy