The Synthwave, also known as Retrowave or Outrun, is a music style of Electronic Music created in the early 2000s. With a great instrumental part, it is largely inspired by synthesizer melodies from Sci-Fi movies (New York 1997, Robocop) or iconic series (K2000, Street Hawk, Miami Vice) from the 80’s and all related to New Wave music genre (Depeche mode, The Cure). So we have SYNTH (esizer) and (new) WAVE which are called Synthwave. Some legendary musicians such as Jean-Michel Jarre, Giorgio Moroder, Wendy Carlos, John Carpenter, Vangelis or Tangerine Dream have brought so much to this style. The basis of the rhythm is also characteristic with sounds of drums (kick, snare, hat) taken directly from the 80’s, treated with highly compressed filters such as filtered house music of French Touch movement.
Nevertheless, Synthwave’s composers also use modern music machines to create basslines of SideChain compression and sometimes some heavy and powerful kicks or snares as we find them in House Music, Electro Rock or Hip Hop. Some genres associated with this style appeared as Darkwave (or Darksynth), inspired by the sound atmosphere of horror movies, Synthpop with voices treated in the same way as in the 80s, Dreamwave with melancholy and romantic tablecloths, but also Futursynth, directly inspired by retro -futuristic films. We will present some very representative songs of each style to easily hear the difference.
France, the starting point
In 2005 a specific EP was released by Record Makers, its name was Teddy Boy and it was produced by Vincent Belorgey aka Kavinsky. It contained a purely emblematic song, Testarossa Autodrive. This is with this track that the word OUTRUN, associated with Synthwave, makes sense (music with which we can quickly imagine rolling into a sports car quickly) and it is also the word that Kavinsky chose as the name of his first album, released in 2013 and co-produced by SebastiAn (Ed Banger Records) on the same label Record Makers. Two videos were made for the hits ‘Protovision’ and ‘Odd Look’ with a dark atmosphere (at night) but also with his legendary sports car, the Ferrari Testarossa (1984), all reminiscent of the 80s.
In 2007, in parallel to his project Electro Clash duo Sexy Sushi (as Mitch Silver), the French composer David Grellier launched a solo musical project called College. An EP ‘Teenage Color’ and an album ‘Secret Diary’ were released by VALERIE Collective he created. Artistic director of Valerie, he managed this cultural network with one goal: to celebrate American 80s culture with a supposed ‘kitsch’ side. With its very distinctive sound print, we can estimate that the Synthwave style really started. Meanwhile, French bands like Minitel Rose, The Outrunners, Anoraak and Lifelike (not in the collective) joined the Synthwave movement with identical musical criteria.
In 2011 the College ‘Northern Council’ album was released with the famous song ‘Real Hero’ in collaboration with Electric Youth. It was one of the highlights of the film DRIVE by the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. The sount track was also boosted by Kavinsky’s legendary ‘Nightcall’, produced by the golden half of Daft Punk. There is also a very good song called ‘Under your Spell’ by the band Desire from Canada. Served by the promotion of the film, this track, with a pleasant female voice sprinkled with sounds from the 80s (Synth pop), received a lot of publicity. Many more events drew public attention to this musical genre and led to the emergence of great artists from all over the world.
Follow-up, producers from all over the world
After the DRIVE phenomenon in 2011, a large number of artists have emerged, inspired by the soundtrack and visual of this film. Necessarily followed the creation of several record companies, such as Rosso Corsa Records (Mitch Murder, Miami Night 1984, Lazerhawk …), Telefuture Records (Betamaxx, Perturbator …), NRW Records (Dance With The Dead, Lifelike, Futurecop!, Waveshaper …), Lazerdiscs Records (Absolute Valentine, Robert Parker, Niky Nine, Morgan Willis, Z6BR3 …) and many others.