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Music from "Stranger Things" is your doorway to synthwave

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NORMAN, Okla. – As the credits rolled after the last episode of the beautiful, haunting Netflix series, Stranger Things, I closed my eyes and took in the otherworldly sounds that were playing, that had played, during this wonderful show that appeared to be some kind of seamless amalgam of Spielberg’s E.T. and Stephen King’s IT

But that music; the pulsating, ethereal score that enveloped the series and gave it a dreamlike quality, that music seems to have stuck with viewers long after the binge was over. The music itself evoked the best soundtracks of the 80’s, and fans of the show now want more. 

There have been quite a lot of virtual ink spilled on what to listen to after Stranger Things, but most of these articles push listeners to the Austin synth scene, where SURVIVE, the composers of the Stranger Things score reside. Instead of this, I will direct eager listeners to a different community of synth artists, musicians that span the globe, hidden behind their music, and an avatar. 

I do this because when I first heard the Stranger Things score, I recognized this sound. It’s a sound very similar to an obscure musical genre that I’ve been familiar with since my first exposure to it while viewing Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive

The score was supercharged on synth music, and the opening song, Nightcall, by popular French synthwaver, Kavinsky, placed an earworm in my skull that I have yet to dislodge.

This growing music scene I speak of, that has been given an audience in films like Drive, The Turbo Kid, and the uproarious short film, Kung Fury, is known as Synthwave: a name that really only began to stick about a year ago. Before then, fans referred to this music variously as retrowave, newretrowave, dreamwave...most fans didn’t care what it was called, they just knew they had to listen to it. 

Reddit heard my cries of anguish as I scoured the web for more of this strange new sound. This was back in 2011, before the scene’s tremendous growth. 

After Kavinsky, I discovered Lazerhawk, a Austin,TX-based pioneer of the synthwave scene, whose space-synth album, Visitors, became a regular on my mp3 player. From then on I tumbled down the rabbit hole as I discovered just how rich and diverse this previously-hidden scene was. 

From there I found Miami Nights 1984, a synthwave artist whose music evokes Scarface, Miami Vice, and the endless, glorious cheesiness that emerged from 80’s pop culture; Mega Drive, whose music could fit seamlessly into any of the montage scenes in a random 80’s crime drama.

The music itself is difficult to define. Many of the artists take their inspiration from the sci-fi and horror films of the late 70’s and 80’s. 

Terminator, Blade Runner, Back to the Future, Scarface, Suspiria, Tron, among other films serve as the backdrop to their musical vistas. There’s a D.I.Y. quality to the scene as well. 

The artists, armed with a synthesizer and a computer, compose their music and upload it. Many of the artists have pages on Bandcamp, where you can buy their albums for a few bucks, as well as t-shirts and buttons. 

The bigger artists release physical copies with labels like Helsinki-based Blood Music, Rad Rush Records, NewRetroWave Records, Lazerdiscs Records, Future City Records, Telefuture Now, etc. 

I’ve had an interest bordering on obsession for years, so please forgive me for having mutated into something of a synth snob. This isn’t to discount the Austin synth scene in any way, and the artists with Holodeck Records are producing fine music. 

My point is that the scene is so much bigger, and global, than new listeners are aware of, and these artists I have mentioned might be what eager listeners are looking for. Check out Waveshaper, Perturbator, Dan Terminus, Mitch Murder, Nightcrawler, Daniel Deluxe, Carpenter Brut, VHS Dreams, and then imagine any one of these artists scoring the second season of Stranger Things

Open the door and explore the music being produced by this wonderfully creative community of international artists. If you enjoyed the Stranger Things score, you won’t be sorry.

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About the Author

Shane Smith

Shane Smith is an accountant and freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in economics from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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