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Synthwave (also called outrun, retrowave and futuresynth[1]) is a genre of electronic music[2] influenced by 1980s film soundtracks and video games.[4][5] Beginning in the mid 2000s, the genre developed from various niche communities on the Internet, reaching wider popularity in the early 2010s.[1] In its music and cover artwork, synthwave engages in retrofuturism, emulating 1980s science fiction, action, and horror media, sometimes compared to cyberpunk.[6] It expresses nostalgia for 1980s culture, attempting to capture the era's atmosphere and celebrate it.[7]


Musically, synthwave is heavily inspired by many 1980s films, video games, and cartoons,[8] as well as composers such as John Carpenter, Vangelis, and Tangerine Dream.[4][9][10] The subgenre name "outrun" comes from the 1986 driving arcade game Out Run, which was known for its soundtrack that could be selected in-game.[10] According to musician Perturbator (James Kent), the style is mainly instrumental, and often contains 1980s cliché elements in the sound such as electronic drums, gated reverb, analog synthesizer bass lines and leads, all to resemble tracks from that time period.[9]

This aesthetic has been incorporated into retro themed movies and video games featuring synthwave artists. According to Bryan Young of Glitchslap, one of the most notable examples of this is Power Glove's soundtrack to the 2013 video game Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.[3]


Synthwave originates from the mid 2000s.[1] French acts including David Grellier (College), Kavinsky, and Justice are recognized as the pioneers contributing to the early synthwave sound. These early artists began creating music inspired by famous 1980s score composers; music which was, at the time, largely associated with French house.[1]


The release of the movie Drive in 2011, whose soundtrack featured several synthwave artists, helped drive new fans and artists inspired by it toward the genre.[11][12] Following the various influxes of new artists into the genre, several of these artists gravitated toward specific aspects of synthwave carved out by the early artists, leading to a wide variation in styles between artists who are associated with the genre.[original research?] Nerdglow's Christopher Higgins cited Electric Youth and Kavinsky as the two most popular artists in synthwave in 2014.[8] Since 2015, synthwave has reached a broader audience from outside musicians and popular media.[13]

Fashwave (a portmanteau of "fascist" and "synthwave"),[14] is a largely instrumental subgenre of synthwave and vaporwave, with political track titles and occasional soundbites,[15] that originated on YouTube circa 2015.[16] The phenomenon was described as self-identified fascists and alt-right members appropriating vaporwave music and aesthetics.[15]

List of artists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Neuman, Julia (July 30, 2015). "The Nostalgic Allure of 'Synthwave'". New York Observer. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Robert (23 September 2016). "On The Synthwave Genre and Video Games". Surreal Resolution. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Young, Bryan (25 March 2015). "Synthwave: If Tron and Megaman had a music baby". Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  4. ^ a b Hunt, Jon (9 April 2014). "We Will Rock You: Welcome To The Future. This is Synthwave". l'etoile. Archived from the original on 11 July 2017. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  5. ^ Neuman, Julia (June 23, 2015). "A Retrowave Primer: 9 Artists Bringing Back the '80s". MTV Iggy. Archived from the original on June 23, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
  6. ^ "Perturbator - DANGEROUS DAYS". Scene Point Blank. 2014-12-01. Retrieved 2015-05-24.
  7. ^ Calvert, John (13 October 2011). "Xeno and Oaklander - Sets & Lights". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d Christopher Higgins (2014-07-29). "The 7 Most Essential Synthwave Artists". Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  9. ^ a b c d McCasker, Toby (2014-06-22). "Riding the Cyber Doom Synthwave With Perturbator | NOISEY". Retrieved 2015-05-19. I'm a huge fan of those dirty-as-fuck John Carpenter-esque saw pads, so you'll most likely find more of these in my music for example...Electronic music has lost a lot of its musicality lately. It's all drops and bass lines looped for five minutes non-stop. Back in the ‘80s, you had classic themes and iconic melodies. I try to take the best of ‘80s music and the best of what modern electro has. The 80s were the golden age of synths too, with master composers like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, who are huge inspirations for most of us in this genre. There’s this special imagery that comes up in your mind when you think about this decade. There's a lot of ‘80s cliché that I find to be extremely cool, like gory practical effects or over-saturated neon colours.
  10. ^ a b Lambert, Molly (2016-08-04). "Stranger Things and how Tangerine Dream soundtracked the 80s". Retrieved 2016-08-28. Vintage synthheads like Survive (and digital replicants alike) make music in the genre that has come to be called synthwave — or “outrun,” after the 1986 driving arcade game that let players select a soundtrack (a first). Inspired by the early days of electronic music and artists like Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis, John Carpenter, and, of course, Tangerine Dream, synthwave is a postmodern take on the ’80s, aiming to capture the way it feels to watch an ’80s movie scored by Tangerine Dream late at night on TV more than to actually replicate their sound.
  11. ^ Eric James Lyman (2015-01-11). "Eric James Lyman - Synthwave". Archived from the original on 2015-05-19. Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  12. ^ "Drive at Five: Revisiting the Neon-Noir Masterpiece". Retrieved 2016-10-17.
  13. ^ Stranger Things’ score is a gateway into synthwave AV Club
  14. ^ Hann, Michael (December 14, 2016). "'Fashwave': synth music co-opted by the far right". The Guardian.
  15. ^ a b Bullock, Penn; Kerry, Eli (January 30, 2017). "Trumpwave and Fashwave Are Just the Latest Disturbing Examples of the Far-Right Appropriating Electronic Music". Vice. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  16. ^ Coleman, Jonny (December 19, 2016). ""Fashwave" Is Fascist Synthesizer Music and Yes, It's an Actual Thing". LA Weekly.
  17. ^ Pearis, Bill (22 December 2016). "French synthwave act Carpenter Brut touring North America in 2017". Brooklyn Vegan. Retrieved 2 February 2017. [...] French synthwave act Carpenter Brut touring North America in 2017 [...]
  18. ^ Misir, Timothy (8 November 2013). "Appleseed Cast Gives Memorable Moscow Concert". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 19 May 2015. [...] as the gig calendar in the capital was packed with the likes of American synthwave band Cold Cave [...]
  19. ^ "Interview with David Grellier of College and founder of the Valerie Collective 2009". Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  20. ^ "Meet Com Truise: Synthwave Wunderkind". 1 September 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  21. ^ "Danger". Retro Synthwave. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  22. ^ Middleton, Ryan (September 1, 2016). "Premiere: Droid Bishop Difuses Glitter Wasteland 'Cold War' With Sugary, Synth-Heavy Remix". Music Times. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  23. ^ "Dynatron - Stars of the Night". NewRetroWave | Stay Retro! | Live The 80's Dream! | Retrowave is the Future |. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
  24. ^ Harrison, Andrew (August 12, 2016). "The sound of the Upside Down: Stranger Things make sinister synths mainstream". The Guardian. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  25. ^ Vehlinggo, Aaron (December 20, 2017). "Electric Youth's Deeper Hidden Meaning". Vehlinggo. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  26. ^ "Disco Unchained: Saturday Sit-down with Futurecop!". 2014-07-05. Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  27. ^ Murphy, Dan (17 November 2015). "Synthwave Band GUNSHIP to Release an Album on Cassette with a C64 Game". God is a Geek: Video Game Reviews, Previews, Videos, Podcasts, and More. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  28. ^ Rossignol, Derrick (28 April 2017). "GUNSHIP's Remix of Lionface's "No Hope State" is Dreamy '80s Synthwave (Premiere) | Nerdist". Nerdist. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  29. ^ Vehlinggo, Aaron (2015-08-11). "Highway Superstar Aims High On Endgame". Retrieved 2017-09-26.
  30. ^ Magnetic. "KEENHOUSE RELEASES VIDEO + ARTWORK FOR "FOUR DREAMS"". Magnetic Magazine. Magnetic.
  31. ^ Liz, Ohanesian. "Riding the Dreamwave with Binary Entertainment". L.A. Weekly. L.A. Weekly.
  32. ^ Deeds, Michael (2016-09-22). "'Risky and fun' Boise synthwave band Magic Sword goes on national tour". Idaho Statesman. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  33. ^ Zistler, Andrew (2016-08-29). "The Midnight - Endless Summer". New Retro Wave. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  34. ^ "Catching Up with Mitch Murder, King of the 80s Revival". Retrieved 2016-07-29.
  35. ^ Zistler, Andrew (2017-05-23). "Dana Jean Phoenix - Synth City". NewRetroWave. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  36. ^ Vehlinggo, Aaron (2017-05-14). "5 Things Vehlinggo Didn't Write About That You Should Hear". Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  37. ^ "Power Glove Interview: Reviving the 80s (July 2013)". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  38. ^ Edsall, Joey (2016-11-04). "Scandroid - Self-Titled Scandroid". NewRetroWave. Retrieved 2017-09-26.