Pandemic Radio: Наукоград — Волна (2021)

I guess it’s pronounced/spelled NAUKOGRAD which is the band name, but also a term applied specifically to areas of urban development in the former Soviet Union. It could also be referred to as a technopole or technopolis but it means, for lack of a better definition. SCIENCE CITY. There really isn’t a western equivalent, the Silicon Valley perhaps, but the Naukograds were cities and towns that were designed for scientific and technological development. They were part of the Soviet collective utopian vision of the future… and some just happened to be built, it’s said, by forced labor from the gulags. There are bitter ironies underlying every utopian dream I know of. Funny how that works.

The band is the very definition of SOVIETWAVE, a sound/mood that purposely evokes that hauntological nostalgia for the future that never came about. Why it resonates with me the way it does is a complicated story for another time. I wouldn’t have been listening to this back then, while the Soviets were running their thing parallel to America’s utopian dream. America itself has gone generations without any collective dream. We still talk about the ideas that drove the American Dream but that’s complicated too and seems to have something to do with the ability to gather unfathomable material wealth but to remain a fierce individualist (whatever that means) and never be beholden to any other person or identity that made such stockpiles of wealth possible. Like I said, it’s complicated.

But part of it is that we will swear with our dying breath that there is no greater place to be; there is no greater country and if you would only travel you would understand that, but don’t bother traveling because everyplace else sucks. Or something like that.

But speaking of nostalgia, I will be going home today. Not home really, but to where I grew up. It never felt like home then so it’s not fair to call it home now. I never felt proper nostalgia for Cold Spring after I left. There was nostalgia certainly but it was never for Cold Spring as it was. It was nostalgia for how things might have been if only, if only, if only, so many things were different. It was a longing for things to have been different than they were. Visiting there after moving away always brings back ghosts of that longing for things to be anything but they way they were. It was a longing to be as happy as I believed everyone else who wasn’t me was happy. So yes, this is complicated too. The feelings are still there.

Why make the trip? Valid question. The trip is about seeing my brother and reconnecting so that maybe the future can be different. I just back spaced over “will be different” because there is no guarantee that any action will make things different, but doing nothing will guarantee that it can never be different.

Complicated, but there is a soundtrack. The soundtrack is the main thing. I wonder if this is truly what it sounded like in the old Soviet cities, way back when I was listening to REM or whatever and feeling my feels in American cities. Judging from the comments in so many Sovietwave posts on Youtube it could be, but then again, who remembers things the way they actually happened? Nostalgia and memory are slippery creatures. I’m uncertain of my own past. All I know for certain is that I can’t recall ever feeling like part of something or that there was any collective purpose. Or if there was a collective purpose, ever feeling like I was part of it. Or that anything was truly real and mattered. That sounds so bleak with the words in front of me, but I can’t recall ever feeling content. All the good stuff came later in life.

Going home. Time travel.

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