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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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Electrocute & Ambient-techno tribute vol. 3

November 11, 2013 1 comment

Hi folks,

it’s been awhile since I posted here. I completely forgot to come back…I was stunned by Breaking bad’s ending, I’m still in awe of many things be it music, films and so on but too little time to chat about it..My Germans friends, such as Brian and Ivo convinced me to do a Krautrock sequel to the first mix, so I’ve been busy digging vinyls and rare gems from the 70’s ! But I also finally finished the 3rd volume dedicated to the 90’s era of ambient techno and such acts like Leftfield, LFO, Plastikman (Early Plus8), and so on. So here it is, I guess I’ll be back for more later! Until then keep digging music, and on wax if possible 😀

To be forgiven, I’ve made an electro mix, I was just playing around with Digital animal by Honey Claws which played on Breaking bad, and I just improvised the whole thing on CD as I don’t even own Traktor (yet!) nor a laptop nor most of these records on vinyl (sadly)…I hope you guys enjoy, it’s sort of a mixture of synth-pop, nu-disco, electro-pop and techno, and things heats up towards the end with Freak by L.F.O. which was used in Gaspar Noé’s film ”Enter the void’‘! I don’t think this record ever left my bag since I got my mitts on it in 2003, pure techno bliss by Mark Bell..And an outstanding video too!

I would like to thank the store in Chinatown where I bought an energy drink which tastes like meh but gives a whole lot of energy ( :

Get your BMX bikes ready for This is not the 80’s Vol. 2 !

February 6, 2011 Leave a comment

This is my second volume to the series This is not the 80’s dedicated to new wave music, electro boogie or industrial. You’ll noticed different tracks, from the neo romantics Visage, to Nitzer Ebb, Ministry and even the Rocksteady crew, one of the oldest breakdancing crews of New York city ! You can download it on Soundcloud on my personnal page there. As well as other mixes that will be featured on the page very soon. Here is the tracklisting :

This is not the 80’s vol. 2 ;
1)
Vous êtes un tocard Mc Fly!
2)
Indochine : le 3 ème sexe
3)
killing joke : Love like blood
4)
Gary Numan : Films
5)
Visage : Fade to grey
6)
Ministry : Everyday is halloween
7)
Front 242 : Take one
8 ) Herbie Hancock : Rock it
9)
Rock steady crew : Hey you
10)
Ronald Reagan speech about the challenger shuttle
11) M
ichael Jackson : Thriller ooft music phazed edit
12)
Nitzer ebb : Let your body learn 12 inch mix
13)
New order : The beach
14)
Depeche mode : Behind the wheel vocal megamix
15) T
he Smiths : How soon is now ?
16) Art of noise : Moments in love (beaten)

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