The Workshop For The Restoration Of Unfelt Feelings

From 1980s Latvia, a wonky, lovely agitpop gem

It is difficult to find much reliable information about NSRD, or Nebijušu Sajūtu Restaurēšanas Darbnīca, in English – there’s a short article on Wikipedia and an even shorter press release on their Bandcamp page. Anything else online about them is in forgotten corners of the internet, and in Latvian. However, what can be deciphered suggests that NSRD are one of the great undiscovered groups of the Soviet Union, sitting comfortably next to Kino. Led by poet and artist Juris Boiko and Hardijs Lediņš, a theoretician of architecture, they made truly singular agitpop. Unable to play any instruments themselves, Boiko and Lediņš recruited other musicians from the Latvian underground, along with various other non-musicians they knew, to contribute in whatever way they could to the NSRD ‘mood’.

This lack of musical ability and the dire social climate Latvia experienced during Soviet occupation fed the sense of hypnagogia – that state between wakefulness and sleep – that drifts through the music. This was a result, perhaps, of NSRD’s unconventional approach to making music – they recorded every six months or so in an intense 24-hour session. NSRD’s music exudes something specifically Latvian – a clash between electronic composition and the spiritual, the modern and the traditional, a clash between Soviet constructivist architecture and Latvian countryside.

The Workshop For The Restoration Of Unfelt Feelings is a collection of NSRD’s music covering 1982 to 1989, when Latvia experienced huge political change ending in the dissolution of the USSR and independence from Soviet influence. The music reflects this – a sense of dread hangs over the record. Political exclusion, cultural censorship and an uncertain future rumble under ambling lo-fi dub.

Tracks like ‘Pļava’ are almost a pastiche of Eurovision while ‘Quia Expedit’ is a meditative synth piece musing on an operatic voice repeating the track’s title. There’s a microcosm of popular music contained within the compilation, each track exploring different avenue. The lullaby feel of ‘Karstvīna Recepte / Uz Pirti / Garām Aiziet Vīrs Ar Cigareti’ enforces the idea of dreams, before ‘Kādā Rītā’ inflicts a hypnic jerk.

NSRD were multidisciplinary outfit. They used newly available computer and video technologies during their performances in Riga; their first film Cilvēks Dzīvojamā Vidē (Man In A Living Environment), released in 1986, was a document of Soviet apartment blocks and their effects on the inhabitants, including footage of NSRD members performing outside the apartments. NSRD were also involved in the highly illegal process of samizdat – the distribution of media banned by the state, copying music from different parts of the world and distributing it among their friends.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the group focused on solo projects and lost contact. Many former NSRD members fled to newly reachable west; Lediņš remained in Latvia and continued to make music until his death in 2004.

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