The Aesthetics of Synthwave

Synthwave is a genre of electronic music that emerged in the late 2000s and is heavily inspired by the aesthetics of 1980s film and video game soundtracks. The genre is often characterized by its use of vintage analog synthesizers and drum machines, as well as its emphasis on nostalgia and retrofuturism.

The aesthetics of synthwave draw inspiration from a variety of sources, primarily from the 1980s era of popular culture. This includes the music, movies, and artwork of the time, as well as the fashion and design trends.

Musically, synthwave is heavily influenced by the synth-driven sound of 1980s pop and electronic music, including artists like Depeche Mode, New Order, and Kraftwerk. The use of vintage synthesizers, drum machines, and other analog gear is also a key component of the synthwave sound, as it provides a warm and nostalgic feel to the music.

In terms of movies and visual art, synthwave takes inspiration from the neon-lit, futuristic visions of films like Blade Runner, Tron, and Escape from New York. The use of neon colors, grids, and retro-futuristic imagery is a hallmark of the synthwave aesthetic, which often creates a sense of nostalgia for a time that never really existed.

Fashion and design trends of the 1980s also heavily influence the aesthetics of synthwave, with many artists adopting the bold and bright styles of the era. This includes oversized jackets, leather pants, aviator sunglasses, and big hair, as well as the use of geometric shapes and bold colors in graphic design and artwork.

Overall, the primary inspirations behind the aesthetics of synthwave are the music, movies, art, fashion, and design of the 1980s, which are blended together to create a unique and nostalgic visual style that is closely tied to the synth-driven music of the genre.

Artists of the Synthwave Aesthetic

There have been many prominent artists within the synthwave aesthetic, each contributing their own unique sound and style to the genre. Here are some of the most notable:

  1. Kavinsky: A French artist who gained fame with his 2010 release “Nightcall,” which was featured in the film Drive. Kavinsky’s music is heavily influenced by 1980s synthpop and features a retro-futuristic sound.
  2. Mitch Murder: A Swedish artist known for his blend of synthwave and electronic dance music (EDM). Mitch Murder’s music often features high-energy beats and catchy melodies.
  3. Perturbator: A French artist who creates dark and brooding synthwave with a strong emphasis on horror and sci-fi imagery. Perturbator’s music has been described as “blade runner-esque.”
  4. Carpenter Brut: A French artist known for his heavy use of guitar and aggressive beats. Carpenter Brut’s music draws heavily on the sounds of 1980s action movies and video games.
  5. Com Truise: An American artist known for his dreamy, atmospheric synthwave sound. Com Truise’s music often features heavily processed vocals and a focus on ambient sounds.
  6. The Midnight: An American duo who create a blend of synthpop and synthwave with a strong focus on nostalgia. The Midnight’s music often features heartfelt lyrics and catchy hooks.
  7. Gunship: A British trio known for their blend of synthwave and rock music. Gunship’s music often features heavy use of guitar and cinematic soundscapes.

These are just a few of the many talented artists who have contributed to the synthwave aesthetic.

The Visual Aesthetic

Synthwave’s visual aesthetic has been heavily influenced by 1980s pop culture and cyberpunk imagery. The neon-soaked cityscapes, retro-futuristic technology, and cybernetic imagery of films like “Blade Runner” and “Tron” have been major influences on the visual style of the genre.

In addition to films, video games have also been a major source of inspiration for the visual aesthetic of synthwave. Classic arcade games like “Pac-Man” and “Space Invaders,” as well as console games like “Super Mario Bros.” and “The Legend of Zelda,” have all contributed to the vibrant, pixelated aesthetic that is often associated with the genre.

Other sources of inspiration include 1980s fashion, with its bold colors and geometric patterns, and the design of classic muscle cars and motorcycles. All of these elements come together to create a unique and instantly recognizable aesthetic that has become synonymous with the sound of synthwave.

The term “synthwave” is relatively new, and there is no one artist who can be credited as the grandfather of the entire genre. However, there are many artists who were influential in the development of synthwave.

One such artist is Giorgio Moroder, an Italian producer who was influential in the development of electronic dance music and synthpop in the 1970s and 1980s. Moroder is known for his work on the soundtracks of films like “Midnight Express,” “American Gigolo,” and “Scarface,” as well as his production work with artists like Donna Summer, David Bowie, and Blondie.

Moroder’s work helped popularize the use of synthesizers in pop music and paved the way for later synthwave artists. His influence can be heard in the use of analog synths and arpeggiated melodies in many synthwave tracks.

Another influential artist is Vangelis, a Greek composer known for his work on the soundtracks of films like “Blade Runner” and “Chariots of Fire.” Vangelis is known for his use of atmospheric and cinematic synth sounds, which have been a major influence on the sound of synthwave.

Other artists who have been influential in the development of synthwave include Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, and John Carpenter.

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