Last summer the streaming media Giant Netflix launched its original show Stranger Things, a science fiction-horror drama set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in 1983. Starring Winona Rider and Mathew Modine, the show follows a sequence of events starting with the disappearance of a 12-year-old boy (Will Byers) and his mother’s (Joyce Byers played by Winona Rider) investigation as Joyce and the local authorities investigate they uncover supernatural forces, secret government experiments and a girl with strange powers. Part of the show’s success lies in its recreation of the 80s not just in the costumes and props but in the music used throughout, especially the music written specifically for the show. Music that instantly conjures that kind of 80s movie and videogame nostalgia that sets this show apart. For example, movies like Blade Runner and Tron (and Tron: Legacy) are also remembered for their great soundtracks that really added something special to the movies. This genre of music is synthwave.
Wave of the future
Synthwave (also known as electro-wave or retro-wave) began as electronic or synthesizer based music and typically did not use any of the traditionally analog instruments found in popular music such as guitar, bass and drums. It was originally made popular by artists such as Depeche Mode as well as in the scores of films such as those of such as John Carpenter during the 80s. Since the turn of the millennium, synthwave has been enjoying a resurgence influenced by the soundtracks and videogames of the 80s and as such incorporates many trademark sound elements such as analog synthesized lead and bass lines, electronic drums and gated reverb. Today synthwave benefits from modern production and mixing techniques and at the same time contains softer pad based elements making it perfect for creating Stranger things’ soundtrack.
It is not only in Stranger Things that we can experience the 80s as current trends and fashion have a distinctly 80s flavor to them. Video games too, like 2013’s Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and the Neon Staxx slot which can be found on Zinger Bingo. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon parodies 80s videogames and movies set in the dystopian future of 2007 and features the voice of Michael Biehn (who has starred in many 80s action movies such as the original Terminator). Neon Staxx features similar styling that would also not look out of place in an 80s videogame or movie with (as the name implies) bright neon colors, polygonal background reminiscent of what would have been used on an 80s computer screen.
So do some digging and you will find some amazing synth sounds bubbling up all over the place. The 80s are finally back in a good way!