80’s Style Synthwave

Tommy McKenna, Blogger

Most people are familiar with electronic music, and even more are aware of the vast amounts of “underground” artists that never really enter the mainstream. However, within these perpetually hidden communities are reservoirs of untapped creativity—creativity that all too often remains shrouded in obscurity. With the increasing relevance and usage of services like YouTube, Soundcloud and Spotify, more and more adventurous listeners can find their niche. These subgenres are populated with oodles of independent musicians, outlandish album art, and their own (low-budget) merchandise and music videos. Some of them—like “Schranz” or “Neurofunk” are characterized merely by musical composition, whereas others—like the recently “discovered”  “Vaporwave” are all the more bizarre and over specific. Synthwave is one of these groups that every so often exit the shadows and come into the public eye, only to slide back into the hazy depths of online forums and shared Spotify playlists.

The Synthwave (sometimes called “Outrun”) genre largely came about by an oddly specific mutual interest: many artists were attracted to the sound and “tone” of 80’s electronic music, but still sought a somewhat futuristic feeling. The result was Synthwave, a genre characterized by its 80’s synthetic aesthetic and copious usage of bright neon album covers and synthesized bass drumlines. A largely online phenomenon that every so often makes its way into popular videogames and movies, Synthwave seems to have had a sudden resurgence with the success of movies like Drive and its (incredibly recent) incorporation into the hit series Stranger Things. Online or independent labels like Telefuture, Blood Music and Lazerdiscs Records continually churn out T Shirts, cassette tapes (yes, in this day and age) and vinyl records, all while providing their musicians with increased exposure and some degree of networking. Like it or hate it, one must at least appreciate the vast amounts of work and time put into communities that may well number in the mere thousands.