Blank City Records revives vinyl art of pressing music on vintage medical X-rays

New LA-based record label Blank City Records are reviving the vintage art of pressing music on medical x-rays, paying tribute to the Soviet hipsters in the 1940’s who struggled to smuggle music into Soviet Union during the 1940s-1950s.

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The story behind this: At the time, music was heavily censored, and the youth that embraced counter-culture (called stilyagi) had to find creative ways to bring anything related to popular western culture in. Unless you owned a radio and listened to it near the border, there was no chance you’d be able to listen to Jazz, Rock ‘n’ roll, or boogie woogie. Audiophiles could smuggle music in, with the help od sailors. But the problem of copying and distribution was still an issue. The stilyagi discovered a solution – that was homemade records ingeniously pressed on exposed X-Rays that they called bone music.

In 1946 Boris Taigin and Ruslan Bugaslovski invented a record cutting machine sourced from scavenged tool parts, using a method of using discarded X-rays and pressing grooves onto thick, soft plastic, making a secret record.

“They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole,” says author Anya von Bremzen. “You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan — forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.” This process is famously captured in the opening credits of the Russian cult film, Stilyagi.

Find out more about Blank City’s initiative on their website here.

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