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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Progressive Without the Progress

Lights flashed, smoked wafted and videos clipped on a wall-size screen. A disk jockey on two turntables presided over a packed dance floor.

"There's a lot of club/house music in Moscow. Its good for girls to dance to and is very trendy. But there are not a lot of clubs playing good music," said Alexei Savanin, an employee at A&T Trade, a firm that sells high-end DJ equipment in Moscow.

"Basically, there's Propaganda and I don't know what else," he said.

A DJ spinning electronic music amid the smoke and lights is normal for Saturday nights at Propaganda, a club in Moscow's central Kitai-Gorod district.

Propaganda may have the most developed DJ scene in town, with every night of the week booked out with either a regular DJ or a special guest. Perhaps the most popular night is Tuesday with DJ Sanches on the decks.

While today most DJs use digital equipment, "Sanches is still playing only vinyl," Savanin said. Sanches, whose real name is Sergei Sanches, uses vinyl records and real turntables.

Having won the Russian DJ of the Year award twice, he plays weekly on Station 2000. DJ Sanches also plays at other clubs including Justo, Virus, Lex, Galery, Zeppelin and Territory.

Playing "deep house" and "tech house" styles, his sound is most similar to The Timewriter, Terry Lee Brown, Jr. and DJ Anton Kubikov.

Once a month at Propaganda he plays a "Back 2 Back" set with Kubikov, who is famous in his own right and a member of project SCSI9.

As Propaganda's schedule shows, however, most guest artists are foreign.

"Moscow clubs don't pay Russian DJs much money," said Savanin, explaining why the scene seems so starved. "They use their money to get Western DJs."

"All famous Russian DJs play in the regions outside of Moscow. Its more profitable to play in Siberia than to play in a Moscow club," said Savanin.

This fact may explain why Moscow has not become a center of electronic music in Europe.

"Not a lot of Russian DJs are creative," Savanin said. "They just play one track after another track. There are not a lot of sample jams and not a lot of mashups," he said.

Another popular artist is DJ Gruv, a drum and base and techno artist who may be the only DJ who has made a successful jump into the Russian pop market.

Other artists include DJ Arkady Air, playing everything from progressive house to acid and tech house; DJ Kolya, who became famous playing at Club 13 with DJ Grag; DJ Fonar who has his own radio show and record label, DigitalEmotions; and DJ Helga, one of Russia's leading female DJs.