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Soundtrack review: The rise of the synths EP 1(2017)

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Soundtrack review: The rise of the synths EP 1(2017)

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“The rise of the synths” is a travel in time towards the roots of a worldwide grass-root music scene known as Synthwave, an irresistible blend of modern electronic composition with 80s pop culture’s nostalgia, that over the last two years has transformed from a whisper on selected internet hubs, to an ever-growing scene, expanding rapidly as we speak. Accounting millions of plays on social media, devoted fans are legion, but nobody in the mass media knows about them. Thousands of synthwave composers around the world are living out double-lives. Away from their normal everyday life they spend another half-life behind a faceless musical avatar, creating and uploading their own renditions of 80’s-styled film scores, sharing them with the world – surging the wave. They belong to an endless army of watchers for the master’s legacy: the sound that Edgar Froese, Paul Haslinger, Giorgio Moroder and John Carpenter created in the late 70s. A time travel into the universe of creating sounds. A love letter to human fascination and the collective memories of a universe that never existed.

I was born in 1979 so my formative years were in this magical and much sought for decade, the 80s. I haven’t really left the 80s as, if you’ve read my reviews, you know that the synth sound of the 80s is my absolute favourite, my time machine, my nostalgia drug of choice, my sanctuary, my escape. When a friend of mine introduced me to Synthwave almost two years ago I couldn’t believe how grateful I was both to him and to the artists for whom the purple neon is a way of life.

I find it fitting that the first EP of “The rise of the synths” starts with a Giorgio Moroder track; he is a god to synth lovers and for me the lord of the 80s. His influence is unmatched and one of my most sought after holy grails in term of film music is his score for “Scarface”; I am still waiting for a proper release. “Triage” is dark and opaque and serves as the perfect intro. The next cue, “Night stalker” by Carpenter Brut is closer to the idea of synth wave because it’s lighter and livelier; it’s also right at the edge with pure electronic music as it reminds me of early Jean Michel Jarre as well. It also sends me back to the sound of my favourite action thrillers of the 80s, raw, powerful.

“Dead of night” by Dance with the dead is another instant favourite as it hits another nostalgia point with this almost gym workout sound, lively, rhythmic, superb. I just turn the volume as high as I can and remember to add it to my running playlists. In the 80s I used to go with my parents and my sister at the seaside every summer and the ride was 5 hours long. My father had a few music tapes he always played on the road and most of the tracks were similar to this one.

The tone switches to Terminator dark once again with “Rebar (prologue)” by Ogre. This was one of the two main branches of synth music I loved, the dark, metallic and aggressive one as opposed to the dreamier more ambient one. This track could have easily featured on any Sci-fi movie from that decade, both dark and melodic, a classic in the making. I have a strange feeling while listening to this one as it’s the one cue from EP1 I felt I’ve truly heard before. “A hero’s journey” by one of the bands I’ve listened to the most, Lazerhawk, is the calmest track from this first album.

“The rise of the synths EP 1” is just a very small tip of a very large iceberg at night. I always find it ridiculous to try and compile a few tracks from this ocean called Synthwave because it deserves so much more, it means so much more. For those who are not familiar with this world it’s a nice point of entry and I am sure that once they are in they will never leave. Welcome tot he 80s!

Cue rating: 97 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 25 / 33

Album excellence: 77%

Highlights:
Triage (Giorgio Moroder & Raney Shockne)
Night Stalker (Carpenter Brut)
Dead of Night (Dance With the Dead)
Rebar (Prologue) (Ogre)
A Hero’s Journey (Lazerhawk)
Stargate (Megadrive)
Appearance of the mysterious traveler (Voyag3r)

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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