Synthwave – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Musical Genres Glossary

What is Synthwave?

Synthwave is a genre of electronic music that emerged in the late 2000s and early 2010s. It is characterized by its nostalgic and retro-futuristic sound, drawing inspiration from the music, films, and video games of the 1980s. Synthwave often features synthesizers, drum machines, and other electronic instruments to create a sound that is reminiscent of the era’s iconic electronic music.

Origins of Synthwave

Synthwave has its roots in the electronic music of the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in genres like synth-pop, new wave, and electronic rock. Artists like Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Giorgio Moroder were early pioneers of electronic music and had a significant influence on the development of synthwave. The genre gained popularity in the underground music scene in the mid-2000s, with artists like Kavinsky, College, and Mitch Murder leading the way.

Characteristics of Synthwave

Synthwave is known for its distinctive sound, which often includes pulsating synthesizers, driving basslines, and retro drum machines. The music is often instrumental, with a focus on creating a nostalgic and atmospheric mood. Many synthwave tracks feature elements of 80s pop culture, such as references to classic films, video games, and television shows. The genre also incorporates elements of other electronic music genres, such as house, techno, and ambient music.

Influences on Synthwave

Synthwave draws inspiration from a wide range of sources, including 80s pop culture, science fiction, and cyberpunk aesthetics. The music often evokes a sense of nostalgia for the past, while also looking towards the future with its futuristic sound. Influences on synthwave can include everything from classic 80s movies like “Blade Runner” and “Tron” to video games like “Outrun” and “Hotline Miami.” The genre also takes inspiration from the visual aesthetics of the 80s, with artists often using retro-futuristic imagery in their album artwork and music videos.

Popular Synthwave Artists

There are many talented artists in the synthwave scene, each bringing their own unique style to the genre. Some of the most popular synthwave artists include:

– Kavinsky: A French artist known for his retro-inspired soundtracks and energetic live performances.
– Carpenter Brut: A French synthwave artist who combines elements of metal and electronic music in his high-energy tracks.
– Perturbator: A French musician who blends dark synthwave with elements of industrial and metal music.
– The Midnight: An American synthwave duo known for their dreamy, nostalgic sound and heartfelt lyrics.
– Gunship: A British band that combines synthwave with elements of rock and pop music, creating a dynamic and cinematic sound.

Subgenres of Synthwave

Synthwave has spawned a number of subgenres, each with its own unique characteristics and influences. Some of the most popular subgenres of synthwave include:

– Outrun: A subgenre of synthwave inspired by the aesthetics of 80s arcade games and action movies. Outrun music often features fast-paced beats and driving basslines.
– Darkwave: A darker and more atmospheric subgenre of synthwave, often incorporating elements of industrial and gothic music. Darkwave music is known for its moody and haunting sound.
– Retrowave: A subgenre of synthwave that focuses on creating a nostalgic and retro-futuristic atmosphere. Retrowave music often features dreamy synthesizers and lush melodies.
– Cyberpunk: A subgenre of synthwave inspired by the dystopian future of cyberpunk literature and films. Cyberpunk music often features gritty, industrial sounds and futuristic themes.

Overall, synthwave is a diverse and dynamic genre that continues to evolve and grow in popularity. With its unique blend of nostalgia, futurism, and electronic music, synthwave has captured the imagination of music fans around the world.