DOM Cultural Center

03 February 2007

NOM (S.Petersburg)
[experimental art]

For almost 20 years, NOM has been an institution in the St. Petersburg alternative-culture scene. Loved by some and hated by others, the collective of musicians, authors, painters and filmmakers is known for scrutinizing the dark corners of the Russian soul, spoofing Soviet and post-Soviet lifestyles and skewering irrational ideologies like anti-Semitism and homophobia through its output of songs, books and films.

Due to perform at Ikra on Thursday alongside Drum Ecstasy, an experimental band from Belarus, NOM boasts a new, more electronic sound on its 10th and most recent album, "A More Powerful One" (Boleye Moshchny).

"The name shouldn't be taken literally, but it sounds different," bassist and singer Andrei Kagadeyev said in an interview this week. "We rejected archaic studios for the first time, recording and mixing everything on a computer."

Besides Kagadeyev, the band's current lineup includes showman and vocalist Ivan Turist (real name Yury Saltykov) and keyboard player Nikolai Gusev, formerly of Stranniye Igry and AVIA, two of St. Petersburg's seminal rock groups of the 1980s. That trio is occasionally augmented by Alexander Liver (real name Dmitry Tikhonov), who lives in France near the French-Swiss border and sings in the choir of the Geneva Opera House.

The band's sound draws from rock, new wave, pop, Soviet torch songs, Gypsy folk and cabaret. But NOM is inspired as much by literature as by music, especially by OBERIU, a Leningrad absurdist group from the 1920s and '30s that included such authors as Daniil Kharms. NOM paid homage to the group on its 2004 release "Album of Real Art" (Albom Realnogo Iskusstva).

NOM formed in 1987 in Pushkin, a historic town outside St. Petersburg that was home to four original members: the brothers Andrei and Sergei Kagadeyev, Liver and Turist. It took its name from the phrase neformalnoye obyedineniye molodyozhi, a perestroika-era term for subcultures such as punks or hippies.

NOM played as a quintet until 1998, when two members -- Kagadeyev's younger brother Sergei and drummer Vladimir Postnichenko -- quit to form another band, which, confusingly, was also called NOM. For several years, the two bands were known by fans as NOM-Euro and NOM-Zhir.

Andrei Kagadeyev said the split was caused by differences in the musicians' approach to showbiz. The breakaway members wanted to make it big, but ended up dissolving in 2001. Postnichenko now runs the grungy St. Petersburg bar Tsinik, while Sergei Kagadeyev works in television in Moscow.

NOM's newest movie, "Belarus Tale," is set during World War II.

"We've always stood outside showbiz, even during perestroika," Kagadeyev said. "Showbiz has its own laws, but, on the other hand, there's a niche for bands like us. We have nothing to complain about. We manage to find small labels that invest money into our projects. We're cut off from radio rotations and the media, but there is the Internet. We've even resumed touring other cities in Russia where we have fans, not only in Moscow and Europe."

Though the band has always been interested in visuals, having produced about 30 music videos throughout its history, its first feature film was "Apiary" from 2002. The film tells the story of a demobilized soldier who arrives at his army friend's hometown, only to discover it's been taken over by aliens.

NOM's second film, "Geopolyps," is a hilarious collection of four shorts. Three spoof the official mythologies of Vladimir Lenin, Kim Il Sung and Adolf Hitler, while the fourth is set in today's Russia and satirizes such figures as President Vladimir Putin and St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko.

Earlier this year, the band premiered its latest zero-budget film venture. "Belarus Tale" is a 30-minute satirical piece that traces the development of a small-time World War II-era looter into a corrupt traffic cop. Though its action takes place in the Belarus town of Vitebsk, it was mostly filmed in Peleslavl-Zalessky, a town outside Moscow, where the band got access to an authentic war-era train, vehicles and uniforms.

"It grew from our own experiences and impressions, while taking the action into Belarus added to the film because we could also play with the language and music," said Kagadeyev.

NOM often alludes to aspects of Soviet and post-Soviet life, though it also reaches out to Westerners -- its 2003 album "Russisches Schwein" was sung in English and German. Kagadeyev said the band's meaning was not lost on audiences during European tours.

"They perceive us as a theatrical-musical whole," he said. "It's difficult to say about the verbal aspect, but they perceive the absurd, so I think there's no misunderstanding."

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works with a support of Ford Foundation