Genres of Music – Synthwave

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By Cameron Patton

Welcome to the Genres of Music series! This is an informative article on the different genres of music that I personally enjoy and wish to share with others.

-=Early Synthwave=-

Early Sythwave started out as a subgenre of techno in the late 1980s to early 1990s and has since grown popularity and diversity later on in the mid 2000s. As the name implies, Synthwave utilizes synth-based variations with the same structure as traditional techno music. The artists of Synthwave in the 1980s vastly differ from today’s producers. Traditional Synthwave follows an electronic-based feel, as it follows the same basic tones and style as electronic music at the time. One notable artist of 1980s Synthwave is Depeche Mode.

Depeche Mode are an English band that formed in Basildon, Essex in 1980. Depeche Mode released their debut, Speak & Spell, in October 5, 1981. The album peaked the number 10 in the UK Albums Chart, lifting the genre’s popularity within the United Kingdom.

Depeche Mode – Speak & Spell, 1981 – New Life

-=Modern Synthwave=-

Today’s Synthwave, also known as Retrowave or Futurewave, is vastly different from it’s 1980s counterpart. According to artist Pertrubator (James Kent), “The style is mainly instramental, and often contains 1980’s cliche elements in the sound such as electric drums, gated reverb, analog synthesizer, bass lines, and leads. The aesthetic comes from retro themed movies and video games. One of the most notable examples of synthwave in video games is in Power Glove’s soundtrack in the 2013 game, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.

Power Glove – Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (Original Soundtrack), 2013 – Power Core

Modern Synthwave originated around the early 2000s from French artists. David Grellier, Kavinsky, and Justice are said to be the pioneers of the genre, creating some of the first in the genre. These artists gained inspiration from French House, a style of house music produced by French artists in the 1990s to early 2000s.

Kavinsky – Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), 2011 – Nightcall

Even with Modern Synthwave being a subgenre of electronic music, there are various other subgenres inside the subgenre itself. A popular subgenre of Synthwave being Dark Synthwave, which creates oppressive overtones of a dystopian future. Bladerunner, a 1982 film showing a dystopian society, is often a reference for the setting of the music. A reoccurring theme within Dark Synthwave is the reference to satanic cults and supernatural phenomenon. Not to mention the threat of A.I. surpassing humanity in the form of synthetic people, or synths.

Dance with the Dead – Near Dark, 2014 – Andromeda

In conclusion, Synthwave has been a genre that bloomed from cliche 1980s music and video games. It holds a special spot in my heart for it’s unique aesthetic and sound.

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