SYNTHWAVE - A PRIMER

If you are familiar with the movie Drive, you have already been exposed to synthwave. The 2011 Ryan Gosling movie featured the singles 'Nightcall' (performed by Kavinsky and produced by Guy-Manuel from Daft Punk), and "A Real Hero" by French house music producer College. The moody, synth-heavy tracks (similar in style to tracks by other French house producers of the time such as Futurecop!, Anoraak and Minitel Rose), helped give Drive an emotional context. Conversely, the movie gave the music a visual context too - the dashboard view of night-lit LA streets, the '73 Chevelle Malibu, that iconic scorpion jacket. Perhaps because of this winning combination of music and imagery, the movie was a huge cult hit, and (it could be argued) spawned a whole new genre of music - retrowave.
For a few years now, retrowave (sometimes referred to as "outrun" - after Kavinsky's album of the same name) has been bubbling away online - with artists such as Miami Nights1984, Lazerhawk, and Waveshaper (among many, many others) making music with analog synths, electronic drums and sythesized basslines, combined with '80s retro sensibilities. The genre is also synonymous with a neonized, Miami-esque visual aesthetic, complete with sleek sports cars, and digitalized cityscapes. Some of the the artwork associated with the genre is beyond incredible - for instance check out the work of video artist Florian Renner

A couple of our favorite tracks in the genre are 'Accelerated' by Miami Nights 1984, and Robert Parkers' 'Lost Love'. But probably the quickest way to get a sense of what retrowave has been up to is to check out the prolific New Retro Wave youtube channel - where you will find a deep well of music by artists you have never heard of before. Retrowave is made largely in bedrooms by young producers. Even though there is a huge online audience, most of the artists have never played to a live audience, preferring instead to spend their evenings watching re-runs of Miami Vice and Knight Rider, and VHS video copies of Tron and Back To The Future.
When the popular Netflix series Stranger Things came along, one of the most noticeable aspects of the show was undoubtedly the brilliant (and ultimately, Grammy-award-winning) soundtrack, which was scored by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of the moody retro-synth band S U R V I V E. The darkness of the music echoes the dark path that synthwave has turned down recently, after taking the best parts of retrowave, and adding an '80s horror/sci-fi vibe (along the lines of Blade Runner, The Terminator and pretty much anything by John Carpenter).

What has more recently ermerged from this whole mess, is a dark electro dance music format (with artists such as Carpenter Brut, GosT and Perturbator) that carries on where Kavinsky left off. A melange of synths, French house, electro, italo disco, muscle-cars, neon lights, horror movie aesthetics, heavy-metal imagery,  and '80s rock guitars - and we are kinda digging it.
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