X-Ray Audio and Rebel Sounds

Our next live event will be at the Imperial War Museum in London on September 21st.


We will be working with Ayse from the band SAVAGES on a unique performance / x-ray sound experiment, talking about the Soviet x-ray era and showing some materials from our exhibition.

It is a free event but you need to register HERE

The event is part of the live REBEL SOUNDS series running in parallel with the CULTURE UNDER ATTACK program currently showing at the museum.

As part of the series, we were with the Museum at the WOMAD festival performing with the musician and activist artist EMMANUEL JAL and his sister NYARUCH They had previously told their harrowing stories - Emmanuel was a boy soldier in Sudan in unbelievably terrifying conditions. We then cut them singing together to x-ray.

It’s important for us to bring the narratives behind the Soviet x-ray culture - culture under attack, music as resistance, human endeavour and the transformatory potential of the arts - into the present. Music is still censored, culture is still under attack in many places in the world.

X-Ray Audio live events are always special, celebratory occasions.

Below are some of the responses of the audience at WOMAD.

“Thought provoking, emotionally intense and very important message”
“Fascinating, excellent, thank god for passion like this in the world!”
“Awards should be given for this stunning presentation of a fantastic time in history”
“Fascinating insight into a time I knew nothing about”
“Such an amazing enlightening, informative and joyful experience! Thank you”
“Lively, informative information. Really informed by the live recording with Emmanuel Jal & sister – a very memorable event!”



We have had a very busy month.

We are just back from Tokyo where our first exhibition in Asia has proved heart-warmingly popular.

Meanwhile our exhibition in Cardiff at Diffusion Festival has just completed. We had great fun there on the opening evening when we cut a super cool performance by Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals to x-ray.

Have a listen and a look.


X-Ray Audio with Massive Attack, Noam Chomsky, Jonsi .

Our collaboration with Massive Attack, Jonsi of Sigur Ros, Noam Chomsky, Pussy Riot and more for the University of the Underground has gone live HERE

The collection is called The Library of Dangerous Thoughts:

The project is an original concept initiated by the University of the Underground with a platform built by digital museum the Collecteurs. It aims to raise awareness against censorship and encourage plurality of thinking. It is a cultural response to state censorship and is presented as a contemporary reminder of the not-so-distant past. 'The Library of Dangerous Thoughts' is an initiative to call and inspire citizens of the world into creating pluralistic platforms, to support free education.

We have cut an Ultra-limited edition of x-ray records for auction on behalf of the University with exclusive tracks and audio by each artist or thinker.

Each record looks and sounds differently than all the rest.

Learn more HERE

Bone Buyers Beware

Orignal X-Ray Record

Orignal X-Ray Record

We have been contacted by several people who have bought x-ray records online (usually from a Russian source) asking if they are genuine. It is difficult to tell definitively without actually examining them but from the images, the look of the surface (and often from the sound) our impression is that many of them are modern. That is fine is you know what you are getting but fraudulent if they are being sold as original Soviet era bootlegs*

As a result of the X-Ray Audio Project, a lot more people know about bone records and understandably some want to own one for themselves - so inevitably a market has developed with crazy prices being asked. Where there is money to be made, there are people wanting to make it …. Even we have been contacted by a Russian guy offering to sell us records he has cut himself,**

So generally we would caution people against buying online but to at least be careful with regard to the following:

Modern x-ray record of Marc Almond performing Vadim Kozin’s song Druzbha (Friendship) at Rough Trade Records 2017

  • If the song or artist dates from after 1964 / 1965 (the x-ray culture mainly died out then)

  • If the image seems very clear or clean (old records deteriorate and surviving ones are usually dirty)

  • If the tone of the image is blue- green (modern x-ray film is a different colour than old film)

  • If the image is of a skull or something dramatic (always much rarer than ribs or indistinct images)

  • The surface is very smooth, shiny or seems like plastic (modern x-rays are a different material than old ones)

If buying from Ebay etc, ask for a guarantee that a record is original from the era (not just recorded on an old machine)

The sound of a modern x-ray is different than that of an old one - they tend to be quieter with a lot of high frequency ‘swishing’ noise rather than a more vinyl / shellac type crackle and hiss.


*Of course, modern X-ray records are also cool - we cut them ourselves as part of our live performances and demonstrations - but just don’t be fooled by fakes and understand what you are buying.

** In some ways of course in ‘the spirit of bootlegging’ and even in the original x-ray era, punters never really knew what they were getting but we are only interested in buying original records for this archive, not for profit. If you have records you can contribute, please be in touch.


We are in residency at Soho Radio, London from November 12th - November 25th.

We have transformed the shop front of the station on Great Windmill Street into a little bit of Leningrad 1959. Come in and see it and say hello if you are passing. We also have a pope-ray audio shop where you can buy our super cool X-Ray T Shirts, cards based and nuts of original Soviet ephemera - and make it a very Happy X-Ray Mass this year.

On Thursday November 15th, we have a FREE special live event at the station with drinks provided by Jaegermeister when we will be making new x-ray records live form performances by artists PINEY GIR and MARCELLA PUPPINI

We have made Five Radio Shows which will be broadcast during the residency:

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We tell the story of the x-ray bootleggers who defied the Soviet censor for the sake of the music they loved.

We hear why and how they did it with selections of music drawn from various x-ray records and hear the words of a surviving bootlegger - and we explore what it actually takes to cut music onto x-ray film.

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We are joined by oral historian and broadcaster Alan Dein.

We discuss the history, culture and technology of the coin operated machines that allowed ordinary people to make a record of themselves in the West - and, in adapted bootlegged form, to create records of forbidden music in the Soviet Union - all long before the advent of tape or digital recording.

We hear a selection of extraordinary recordings of strange and moving sounds from Alan’s collection, how the records were used to send messages home from the war, record visits to tourist destinations and to capture the sounds of loved ones in a way that was impossible before.


The Soviet records cut on x-rays in the cold war era are an unusual example of thin flexible vinyl type records that have carried all sort of audio - from advertisements through exclusive tracks by huge bands to experimental and deeply odd music.

We are joined by writer Barry Cain, editor of the massively influential 1980s Flexi Pop magazine, and collector DJ Food, creator of the extraordinary online Flexhibition, to explore the wonderful, wonky world of the flexi disc. 


We are joined by vinyl historian, writer and broadcaster Travis Elborough to discuss the murky world of the illegal recording.

The cold war era x-ray records made in defiance of the Soviet censor were just one example of illicit recordings made available by ‘bootleggers’ for various reasons from the ideological to the purely commercial.

We hear extraordinary examples from the 1960s - 1980s, the Golden Age of the vinyl bootleg, when record companies fought a losing battle, often against fans, to control just what of their artists output could be listened to.



Much of the music cut onto the Soviet x-ray records was not Jazz and Rock ’n’ Roll but Russian music- forbidden Russian music.  It was forbidden for various reasons - usually because the artists who made it lived in exile in the degenerate capitalist West.

We are joined by afficionados Jason Reid and Joe Dimnot to talk about the ways musicians in exile have gone on to create some of their best work and  toinfluence the culture of the countries that provide them shelter from persecution.

We hear a selection of tunes made and influenced by artists including Kurt Weill, Schoenberg, Gil Gilberto and Hugh Masakela.



We will be holding various live events over the next few months including a residency with a 'Bootleggers' Room' installation and various broadcasts at SOHO RADIO in November, evenings at British Library, Calvert 22 and The Horse Hospital - with very special guests.

Details will be published on the EVENTS page.

In Spring, we are planning more events around the UK before the X-Ray Audio exhibition goes to Tokyo in April. Our live events include illustrated  talks on the underground x-ray culture, demonstrations of how to cut live music to x-ray and a full blown X-Ray Cabaret. If you are interested to host us please get in touch.


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A major piece on the X-Ray Audio exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art featured on the Monday June 11th edition of BBC's flagship news program NEWSNIGHT.  The repost is based on our interviews with the BBC's Israel correspondent Tom Bateman and carries various sequences and interviews from our documentary ROENTGENIZDAT  

Play the clip below

The piece references our aim  of bringing the underlying theme of the exhibition - music and underground distribution as cultural resistance - into the present and make it local, in this case with examples / documentary films relating to the middle east.

Tom's mention of the exhibition coming to London in the Autumn refers to our upcoming residency at SOHO Radio in Great Windmill Street where we will create an installation and broadcast a series of programs over a two week period. That will be followed by live events at Calvert 22 and The Horse Hospital with various special guests. More details on those soon.

We are currently in the planning stage to take the exhibition to Tokyo in spring 2019 and to the US subsequently.

ROENTGENIZDAT at the COURAGE-PAREVO Documentary Film Festival

ROENTGENIZDAT our award winning documentary has been selected for the entire COURAGE-PAREVO cross-Europe Documentary Film Festival series focused on Counterculture, Dissent and Cultural Opposition in the Former Socialist Countries in Eastern Europe.

The first showing will be in Budapest on 1-2 June at the Premier Kultcafé. Then the festival travels to:

1-2 September 2018 - Warsaw

20 September 2018 - Prague

October 2018 - Zagreb

16-24 October, Greifswald, Germany

November 2018 - Bratislava

November-December (12-16 November) 2018 - Bucharest

More details HERE

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Our exhibition at Tel Aviv Museum of Art has just closed after five month run. It had a record number of visitors  - of all ages. There is a large Russian community in the city, but the subject of forbidden and underground culture seemed to really touch a nerve with many people locally.  Thanks to our collaborators and the curators at the museum. It was the biggest show we have yet done and looked amazing - see images below.

We are currently in talks to take the exhibition to Japan and to the US. If you are involved with an institution or suitable venue and want to work with us please get in touch.  As well as the full exhibition, we hold one-off live events often as part of festivals.

We will  have a residency at SOHO RADIO in November with a two week installation in central London. More details on that soon.

In the meantime, HERE is a great piece on the project in THE HINDU TIMES by Aditya Iyer.


Join us at THE BRITISH LIBRARY on February 9th to hear the incredible story of the cold war Russian bootleggers who risked imprisonment to make extraordinary records of the forbidden music they secretly loved. 

And we are very pleased to announce we will be joined for a one-off and very rare musical performance by underground maverick genius BARRY ADAMSON which will be cut directly to one of his own x-rays on our 1950s recording lathe and played straight back.

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BARRY ADAMSON is a multi-disciplinary artist who rose to prominence as the bass player in Magazine and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. 

His critically acclaimed solo work has seen him work with some of the film industry’s most intriguing mavericks including Derek Jarman,David Lynch, Oliver Stone and Danny Boyle. Having released nine studio albums, including the 1992 Mercury Music Prize nominated ‘Soul Murder’, he has composed music for TV series, adverts, computer games and an Olivier Award winning ballet performance. .



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The X-Ray Audio Exhibition is currently showing at TAMA Tel Aviv Museum Art until June 2018. It is the latest and largest  iteration of  our exhibition to date and is accompanied by a series of films and events we have curated on the subject of censorship, oppression and music.

More details HERE

The exhibition in Tel Aviv follows our shows in Moscow and St Petersburg last year. You can read THE JERUSALEM POST review HERE

Instead of a traditional exhibition catalogue, we produced an entire newspaper - distributed free with an edition of the  HAARETZ daily newspaper.

The paper contains  essays drawn from our book The Strange Story of Soviet Music on the Bone with original  essays and contributions by some of out invited guests and  collaborators. 

See below for images

Photos: Paul Heartfield

To see the latest images from our exhibition go HERE.


Our exhibition at GARAGE is installed. It looks astonishing - it has been a real pleasure to work with the people at the museum and there has been a huge amount of media coverage in Russia press and TV.

Here are a selection of images from the exhibition, opening event and X-Ray Cabaret we held in the museum when we cut new x-ray records live from performances by Russian musicians.

The exhibition runs until October when it will transfer to St Petersburg and then move to Tel Aviv in the new year. 


We are very pleased to have been invited to bring the X-Ray Audio project to Russia.

From August 14th to October 5th 2017 we will be exhibiting at GARAGE Museum of Contemporary Art in Gorky Park. In addition to the exhibition there will a program of live events including an X- Ray Cabaret a round table discussion on Forbidden Culture and a short film program.

Read More HERE

Проект X-RAY AUDIO в Музее современного искусства «Гараж»

Мы очень рады, что наш проект X-Ray Audio пригласили в Россию.

 С 14 августа по 5 октября 2017 в Музее «Гараж» в Парке Горького пройдёт выставка «Музыка на костях». В рамках выставки также состоится серия мероприятий: X-Ray Cabaret, круглый стол «Запрещённая культура» и кинофестиваль.

Надеемся, что вы сможете к нам присоединиться.

Русская версия ниже


Since the beginning of the project, we have benefitted from a lot of media interest. That has been really helpful - it gave us the motivation to keep going in what is fundamentally a labour of love plus it has opened many opportunites for the project exhibition and live events.


Most recently, there have been major features in international media including Garage, Frieze and National Geographic magazines - with more to come.  Thanks to all who have shown an interest - we appreciate that.



X-RAY AUDIO in Berlin

We wil be live at the HOUSE OF CULTURE in Berlin as part for the FREE! Music festival on Sunday April 9th:

"Stephen Coates tells the incredible story of soviet bootleggers who cut forbidden music onto used X-ray plates during the Cold War. Sound artist Aleks Kolkowski cuts a fresh X-ray bootleg live."

We are very pleased to be working with the Berlin electronic musical artist GUIDO MOBIUS  to make a recording onto X-Ray