LISTEN, THEN TALK / Glavstroy stories

Interview: Nastya Sotnik


The father of the first Moscow listening-bar Fonoteka, visionary and music lover Pavel Nedostoev tells why he and the Ess-Thetic team created a semisecret bar in which it is suggested to be silent.

Where are we?

We are in the Flâner restaurant and bar, but now we will go down to the underground floor and find ourselves in the Fonoteca listening bar — a separate chamber space for listening to music. In fact, the Fonoteca is not a secret place, it is simply located, to put it mildly, not in the most prominent place.

What is a listening bar?

This is a place where you are invited to listen to music, not to talk. Listening-bar culture flourished in Tokyo in the 1970s. (Back then, listening to music together was the only way to get acquainted with new and rare foreign records. - Ed.) As a rule, modern originators of listening bars have been collecting and improving sound systems for decades, investing almost millions of dollars in them, and then when they grow old, they decide that they want to share it, and open bars with just a few tables, where they play music and mix cocktails themselves.

How did you first get to a place like this?

Once I made a trip to Japan, and I got into this environment. I wanted to have something like this closer to my home, in Moscow. But in general, I am a fan of music — I have been playing it since my youth. I tried myself as a composer and, in general, planned to connect my life with music. Obviously, I organized a vocal and instrumental group. But it happened so that professionally I went in a different direction, and I had to wait for the music. Years have passed, but I am still interested in creativity. I even keep buying synthesizers in hope that one day I will record my own album. This is my way. But in general, High-End is an aesthetic subculture. When you immerse in it, in its technical elements, you discover its multi-layered nature, each level of which can be passed over and over again. And suddenly you find yourself at professional exhibitions of high-end systems, you become surrounded with like-minded people, with whom you decide whether a copper wire is better than silver, you explore amplifiers, receivers, record-players, acoustics and other elements. Each of these components has its own creators, legendary names, and philosophy.

What sound did you choose for Flâner?

The heart of the listening bar is the music high-end audio system, my musical art object that migrated to the bar from my home. The system is based on vintage JBL 4350 acoustics from 1979. This object is the fruit of my many years of searching for the perfect sound. I have pieced it together for about seven years and, hopefully, I will improve it for another 20 years. In general, there are different" temples" of sound and their followers. Followers of digital sound, followers of exact calculations, lovers of vinyl, lovers of magnetic tapes. I'm more of the latter myself, I like everything analog. I like to play vinyl records, it is a ritual. When you pick up a vinyl record, you see a creation that both musicians and artists have worked on. Every record is always special, and every time you listen to it is also special. The way it plays in the moment - at a certain pressure, humidity, state of the audio equipment - it will never be played the same again. After all, with each playback, the record deteriorates and gradually fades, and this also has its own philosophy.

Why would you want to share such treasures?

I generally like to share. I am a very open person. Of course, I like to listen to music alone, but also with friends and company. Therefore, I am very interested in participating in a project like Flâner. For a music lover, it is interesting to share a special sound and favorite music. As a specialist in the event industry (Pavel has been working in the PR sphere and DEPARTMENT event agency for 12 years. - Ed.) it is interesting to see how the audience will react to such a format of a restaurant - listening-bar. What guests will listen to, how they will react, on what days. In general, Flâner is an interesting social experiment. A bar is a public space where people usually come to talk and drink. And it turns out in our bar we invite our guests to listen first, not talk.

You said that you brought not only a sound system but also a lot of other things from home to the bar?

I brought Japanese statues for scents, which I have been collecting for a long time, different art. For example, a diptych of Dashka the Nun, our common friend with EssThetik, hangs on one of the walls in the restaurant hall (Co-founders of the project. - Ed.)There are some things made by my hands. The most notable object is the golden figure of the Virgin Mary. I made 12 such figures; gave 11 to my friends, and kept one for myself, and now it's here. There are also many books about music, about retro cars, about Tokyo, and about some subcultural things, for example, about shibari, so everyone will find something of interest.

Listening bars were born in Japan, but are now starting to open all over the world. In this seriesof short documentary videos, the atmosphere of audiophile establishments in Tokyo, Barcelona and London is well captured. - Ed.