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Synthwave drive into motion pictures

November 28, 2017 1 comment

Synthwave, also called outrun, retrowave and retro-electro is a genre influenced by 1980s film soundtracks and video games. Aesthetically, synthwave gives a retrofuturistic perspective, emulating 1980s science fiction, action, and horror media, sometimes compared to cyberpunk. It expresses nostalgia for 1980s culture, attempting to capture the era’s atmosphere and celebrate it. Perhaps the most famous movie to use or to kickstart the use of a full-on electro soundtrack was the movie Drive by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. Drive was praised by the legendary Robert Ebert and had a standing ovation at Cannes festival in 2011. Although Drive shares several characteristics with the similarly-named 1978 Walter Hill car-chase film, The Driver, it is actually adapted from the 2005 James Sallis novel of the same name.

The title track, entitled Nightcall by Kavinsky is produced by one of Daft punk and shares some of the magic of their early french touch work in the 90’s. Nightcall was produced by Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo and features Brazilian lead singer of CSS, Lovefoxxx. The track was used in the title sequence for Drive.  Most of its ethereal electronic-pop score was composed by Cliff Martinez, who was a drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Refn was a particular fan of his ambient work on the Sex, Lies, and Videotape soundtrack. Many movies followed in the aftermath of Drive such as The neon demon (also by Refn), It follows, Maniac and Turbo kid.

Kavinsky ‎– Nightcall (Record Makers) – 2010


Electro has always been highly cinematic, just think of the synths used by Vangelis in Blade runner, although more ambient in its genre, the electronic scores bears an intensity difficult to obtain with traditional instruments. As polyphonic sounds are used on synthesizers like the Korg, rightfully so used on BR, it can enhances dramatically a scene and put the emphasis on certain emotions.

Recently, we have seen a plethora of TV shows using those lush sounds. A gimmick or a real trend ? Who knows? From the highly overrated Stranger things, to Utopia’s Cristobal Tapia de Veer (who also scored the British remake of Humans, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams and an upcoming episode of the masterful show Black mirror) to Mr Robot OST, made by Mac Quayle, it seems that electro is no longer played by DJ’s but has been finally find a niche while being embraced by movie directors and showrunners like Sam Esmail. For Drive, for example, Refn wanted electronic music for the film and to have the music occasionally be abstract so viewers can see things from The Driver’s perspective. He gave composer Martinez a sampling of songs he liked and asked Martinez to emulate the sound, resulting in “a kind of retro, 80ish synth-pop” result. Recently, a famous iconic TV show used The Chromatics Shadow in their premiere. Black mirror S03 episode San junipero was scored by another Clint, Mansell this time, famously known for the soundtrack of Moon. Although more ambient in its tone, it showed that electronic music had come full circle and was largely embraced by TV shows : the soundtrack for just one episode, not even a full season, was so much in demand it had to be released on cd and vinyl !


These filmmakers have pretty much in common one person: John Carpenter. Vangelis and Tangerine dream can also be cited as reference. John Carpenter’s mostly known for his brand of horror flicks that includes Halloween, The thing and The fog. But he is also a gifted soundtrack composer as he did the score for Assault on precint 13, released in 1976. One of the film’s distinctive features is its score, composed and recorded by Carpenter. The combination of synthesizer hooks, electronic drones and drum machines sets it apart from many other scores of the period and creates a distinct style of minimalist electronic soundtrack with which Carpenter, and his films, would become associated. Carpenter had several banks of synthesizers that would each have to be reset when another sound had to be created, taking a great deal of time.

More recently, French acts including David Grellier’s project College, Kavinsky, Lifelike and Anoraak are recognized as the pioneers contributing to the early synthwave sound. These early artists began creating music inspired by famous 1980s score composers; music which was, at the time, largely associated with French house. Anoraak later stated in a 2014 interview: “American pop culture is definitely my background as a kid. I was born in 1980, so I grew up in a world taken by American music and movies”. Com Truise, whose retro synthesizer-based music was first released in 2010, has also described his music as synthwave.

Miami vice show from the 80’s also often serve as an aesthetic on many YouTube videos of Synthwave bands such as Miami nights 1984, VHS dreams and Timecop1983. Electric youth, featured on my mix ‘’Strange things & synths’’, an homage to Carpenter and an ode to S U R V I V E, are also a well-known respected band in the genre. From Toronto to France (College), to NYC (Com truise), to Australia (Jordan F), Copenhagen (Dynatron) and Gunship in London, those outfits underline dream like sequenced movies and soundtracks which contains tracks with vintage keyboards and bluntly descriptive titles as well.

When the 1980’s aesthetics of Terminator (1984) meets electro, Kavinsky’s Odd look is one heck of video to watch on YouTube !

Here is a fascinating video from the website called ‘’The rise of synths’’ below which can be streamed on Vimeo. Subtitles are in French!

P.-S. : Driver: If I drive for you, you get your money. You tell me where we start, where we’re going, where we’re going afterwards. I give you five minutes when we get there. Anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours. No matter what. Anything a minute on either side of that and you’re on your own. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down. I don’t carry a gun. I drive.

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Oceania mix : ambient waves

November 2, 2017 Leave a comment

Ocean waves, tranquility and ambient. Seems a fitting match. Being in a meditative state of mind, attempting to clear out all thoughts and rid myself of negative energy, I put together a mix to compliment my meditation. As the water sways in waves, so does my breath, and so does everything else. In moment of eternal bliss, we long for calm and no place is calmer than the ocean. This ambient mix with a touch of dub is meant to relax your mind and take the stress away.

With Pete Namlook, Loscil, Mixmaster Morris, The Black Dog, Melotone, Rod Modell, Evan Marc, Steve Hillage, Ishq, Biosphere, The KLF, Cio D’Or & Krill Minima.

 


Track Listing: [artist – track / album [label, year]

1) Just one more wave compadre…
2)Krill Minima – Submarine Poetry / Nautica [Native State, 2007]
3)Koss – Beauty / Ancient rain [Mule electronic, 2008]
4)The Black dog – M1 / Music for real airports [Soma, 2010]
5)Pete Namlook – Music for babies / Music for babies [Fax +49-69/450464, 2010]
6)Rod Modell & Michael Mantra – Vitamin M / Sonic continuum [Hypnos,1998]
7)Loscil – Fromme / Coast / Range / Arc [Glacial Movements Records, 2011]
8)Melotone – Gentle drift (Somber tilt mix)[No label, 2016]
9)Dreamfish – Under Water / Dreamfish [Fax +49-69/450464, 1993]
10)Evan Marc + Steve Hillage – Intention Craft / Dreamtime Submersible / [somnia, 2008]
11) ISHQ – Submarirne space time / Aquaphonics / [Virtual, 2017]
12) Koss ‎– Ocean Waves / Ocean Waves EP [Mule electronic, 2010]
13) Biosphere – Warned by the drift / Dropsonde [Touch, 2005]
14) KLF – 3AM Somewhere Out Of Beaumont/ Chill out [Wax trax, 1990]
15) Cio d’or – Goldbrokat Donato Dozzy Ambient Remix / Die Faser Part One EP [Prologue, 2009]

Carbon based lifeforms tribute

October 8, 2017 3 comments

I have made a live mix of mostly ambient tracks from the Swedish duo Carbon based lifeforms. Their music blends ambient with patches of static, garbled radio transmissions and disembodied voice bytes. This music revels in mystery, layered with lush synthetic chords, suggesting something akin to a long scuba dive in the waters of an alien world.

The melancholic “MOS 6581” from Hydroponic Garden (2003), for example, summons the exquisitely-layered liquid harmonies of Tangerine Dream but confounds expectations with its brittle, crunchy trip-hop drum break. These albums are wonderfully deep and immersive, still dreamy even amid the dark, urgent intensity of tracks like “Proton/Electron” from World Of Sleepers (2006) with its Roland 303 acid-house snarls and massive bottom end. World Of Sleepers is positively storming at times and the album is particularly well suited to cranking up the volume. Interloper (2010) is noticeably less dark than the other two, with the shimmering “Frog” being perhaps the most luminous, openly loving piece of music they’ve done.

Post-Interloper, the band has taken two detours into beatless ambience. VLA (2011) is a single 60 minute track that’s rather too minimal to work as anything other than background wallpaper, but Twenty Three (2011) is a stunner. Tracks like “Terpene” and “Somewhere In Russia” offer some of the most cosmic, richly harmonic float music since the late 70’s/early 80’s heyday of Californian new age. CBL’s sound design remains immaculate and its a revelation to hear the duo apply their craft to eight beatless, drone-based compositions. Twenty Three is something of an exception to the classic CBL sound but an absolutely essential one.

Also essential is the solo album Comfortable Void (2012) from Daniel Segerstad, recording as Sync24.  The music has his band’s same sense of mystery but is a little more personal and idiosyncratic. “Nanites” is a quite indefinable blend of slow breaks, electric piano sounds and a looped choral sample; pretty yet with a slightly sinister edge. “Sequor” spreads a slow, hypnotic arpeggio from acoustic guitar over a droning bass progression and hints of field recordings. “Something Something” and “Oomph” are probably the most CBL-sounding tracks; layers of bubbling machine bleeps and 303 acid lines beneath soaring, celestial melodies powered by muscular slowbeats. Comfortable Void is superb, up there with anything by CBL and one of the best Ultimae releases of all.

CBL’s sound design remains immaculate and it’s a revelation to hear the duo apply their craft to the 20 beatless, drone-based compositions of this mix.

 

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