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Retro Wave: 80s In The XXI Century

There is a lot of going back to the 80s happening since around 2010, and music has made sure to make the most of its “retro” opportunities. There has been shows such as Stranger Things, movies like Blade Runner 2049 and well known artist like The Weeknd that began using sounds from synths very 80s like.

There is however a youtube channel that specializes in this sort of feeling, the channel is called “NewRetroWave” why should you look into it? well the 80s were surely an important era for music in terms of electronic music and music structure.

There is a nice summary of what Synthwave and Retrowave is by

In the past couple of years alone, the sub-genre of electronic music also known by names like outrunretrowave and futuresynth, has transformed from a whisper on a few select Internet hubs into a self-sustaining musical ecosystem hoisting itself up and expanding rapidly.It all began in the mid-2000s, when gamers and horror nerds took a liking to French house artists like Justice, Kavinsky, and College, who were creating sounds inspired by ’80s film score legends (Carpenter, Goblin, Brad Fiedel). Since then—and especially after the release of the 2011 arthouse film triumph Drive—the genre has exploded in a plume of modern electronic fury, with artists emerging around the globe, from Stockholm to Dallas, Texas. That satisfied-but-anxious feeling you had watching Terminator for the first time, that inexplicable sense of comfort you got every time the Beverly Hills Cop intro came on, these sensations might just bubble up again when you hear the dark aggression of artists like Perturbator and Mega Drive or the pure ’80s worship of Mitch Murder and Miami Nights 1984.

Julia Neuman

Cyberpunk and Synths

There is a part of the 80s retro culture that stuck around until today, and that is Cyberpunk, which began to rise as a branch of sci fi and popularized after Blade Runner and Ghost in The Shell.

The music that acompanied these futuristic cities and enviroments was very distinctive and came mostly from synths.

ALEX, a retrowave artist comments on the whole aesthetic of the genre when asked about references from movies such as Blade Runner and games like Cyberpunk 2077.

It’s kind of, in general, the culture right now, it’s sort of edging towards that aesthetic style – yeah I think it’s pretty cool, I think it’s pretty fresh too cause I prefer the – It’s not really about nostalgia, more doing something new with it. Cause I’m not really from the 80’s, I’m 22, so I don’t know what it was like to sort of be in that sort of era. I like the idea of sort of the more fringe aspects of VR coming back in a much more innovative kind of way, and then you’ve got the whole thing about Cyberpunk which is kind of a more 90’s thing I guess.

But at the same time, it’s sort of a revamp. I think it’s something we totally needed as well cause I think there’s a lot of reboots right now as well… … that may be best left alone… … I do like the whole sort of “Retro” thing coming back.

There is an interesting aspect about this whole genre, which is that it has mostly gained traction and listeners through the internet, with platforms like YouTube. This makes it like a somewhat funny wink to the whole cyberpunk aesthetic.

Retro With Digital


While the idea is to come back and capture the vibe of the 80s through 90s, its sounds and the overall feel of the time, there are many new technical aspects that differ from those original sounds, digital most of all.

There are more tools, and it’s easier to produce music today, and while some like to go back to analogue synths, others make the most of the possibilites that come with the digital set of ideas.

The easiest way to make Synthwave or Retrowave is through a MIDI keyboard, which directly connects to the pc and lets you control the sounds through a digital channel. Once this is done, there is a work of sampling old music, and mixing it with new sounds, playing with the tempo and pitch in way that makes the old music heavier and easier to follow as an electronic music song. This proves that no matter how much there is of something, there is always something new to find in the past.

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