Michailo + Irakli Release Intergalactic Research Institute for Sound
The emergence of Tbilisi’s techno scene has proven a thrilling chapter in recent club music history, but the affliction of Michailo Todua’s situation is a heavy counterweight. Imprisoned on drug charges which, in the UK, wouldn’t likely earn him more than a fine, the Georgian DJ and producer is now six years into a nine-year sentence.
His is by no means an unusual case. The 2006 introduction of the country’s zero-tolerance drug policy saw offenses triple over its first two years, and a surge in prison population followed. Michailo is one of thousands wrenched away from friends and family, the victim of an ignorant moralism which still exerts a strong influence over the state.
His incarceration means he has been absent in these recent years, which have seen techno lovers from across the continent pour into the likes of Bassiani, Mtkvarze and Café Gallery. But this four track collaboration with Irakli, a Berlin-based Georgian who runs the much-loved Staub party, shows that he still dreams of the club.
An accompanying letter to the Georgian government lends Release an explicit context. We hear of a young man whose suicide note detailed abuse at the hands of the police as part of a drug investigation. Ikrali pleads directly for further changes in the law. There were developments on this front last year, when cannabis possession was decriminalised, but any progress this might represent is limited. The Georgian Orthodox Church, still a hugely influential institution, continues to fight progressive reform. The threat of far right violence is never far away.
Partying will never solve socio-political problems as complex as Georgia’s. However, in the case of Tbilisi, it has been encouraging to see techno once again voice a political yearning, while largely avoiding a typical refrain from some dance music fans to keep politics out of the music. The thoughtful, restrained production work on Release’s four tracks offers a glimmer of hope.