Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Fourth Annual Synthetix.FM Synthstravaganza!

2015 is nearly all but a memory and it's been another huge year for the 80s inspired synth music scene. The progress seen throughout the year has been something that has genuinely amazed me. Instead of writing soundtrack style music producers are now writing soundtracks for actual products. Games, movies, TV and more media are looking to the 80s to provide the musical accompaniment for their vision as an almost commonplace occurrence. Massive projects like Kung Fury and Turbo Kid shone as hugely succesful examples of implementing 80s inspired synth music in the perfect manner. What I've seen this do is establish the music as something valid as opposed to it being a 'novelty' style of music in the eyes of many new listeners. The music evolves as does its audience and 2015 had some great music that will always mark out this year in particular, stylistically.

This year was the year that producers more regularly began digging deeper for 80s inspirations. If 2014 was the year Italo came back, 2015 was definitely the year 80s Library music came back. So many producers explored the obscure gems of 80s library and stock music and took those influences into their own sounds. The end result has been some of the most kick arse music I've heard the scene produce since the early days. Fresh sounds, full of excitement and energy. Sounds that bring new possibilities to 80s music in a modern context.

The exploration didn't stop there though. Deeper explorations of existing 80s styles occurred through so many genres throughout the year. Vocals developed massively through 2015 as producers literally found their own voices and also enlisted new voices into our beloved 80s soundscape. This year has easily been the most prolific thus far for 80s synth pop sounds with so many incredibly written and performed pop gems included on many albums. The diversity is always what breeds creativity and this past year has been rockin to the max for new and established producers to be inventive and break out in bold new examinations of 80s sounds.

For all the positives, there have also been some negatives this year. We've lost numerous parts of the scene in 2015, some that some would say were integral; other would say their loss was inconsequential. The loss of Maniac Synth's YouTube channel was one of the hardest for many as his channel provided marvellous exposure for many producers and had a huge following. A related huge negative impact on the scene throughout the year; (and one that will only continue to worsen through 2016 in my opinion, unfortunately) is that of perceived copyright infringements used by services such a soundcloud and YouTube. Throughout the year I've seen far too many cries from anguished producers having their music taken down, or accounts frozen due to automatic (and mostly incorrect) flagging of copyright breaches. Our own Neros77 wasn't untouched by this and nearly had his YouTube account closed during the year. And even yours truly is serving 'one strike' against his soundcloud account for some entirely unknown breach of copyright that I had no recourse whatsoever to even get the details of what the infringement was.

As the internet becomes more and more monetised and controlled by larger interests it closes tighter and tighter around those of us who use other people's music or imagery to promote it. Who knows where it will end, but it's definitely only just beginning as more and more automated routines scan and rescan everyone's content for possible copyright breaches. I fear the days of anyone being able to post fanmade content to popular services are behind us, but hopefully other avenues will appear as losing these people who do so much wonderful and entertaining work to promote the music we love hurts all of us.

Back to the positives of 2015 and another big change that happened this year and has had a huge snowball effect is the amount of producers and groups now playing live; and doing so regularly. So many great gigs have happened all around the world this year with cards of completely 80s inspired synth acts performing to audiences of old and new fans. For all the great work the internet can do for music promotion I'm still a very firm believer in the old school tried and tested grassroots fan base for the music and playing live is an important way to grow the music's fanbase. I've witnessed this first hand myself and really hope that more fans of 80s inspired synth music 'vote with their feet' and get out to local shows to experience the live magic of seeing producers you love in their true element.

So, what's up for 2016? Well, I have no idea what's in store for the 80s inspired synth scene but I'll be right there with you sharing the love for all the music that I think matters. This year we formed  a core of half a dozen regular writers who'll (hopefully!) all be rockin with you on here next year too, whom I thank deeply for donating their time and energy in creating content for the site. Also next year, as I mentioned in the most recent Synthetix Sundays, I'll be expanding Synthetix.FM's content beyond just music in 2016. I was originally going to start a new umbrella site that Synthetix.FM would be a part of but I think the best idea is to keep things as one on here and add new types of content under the Synthetix banner.

I've had many, many ideas of things I'd like to cover and write about online from the 80s fascinations I have but I always kept them 'on the backburner' as I figured they'd need to exist in a separate space to this site. I then realised doing new sites just fractures things further and further. The content I plan on sharing on here that is not music related will essentially be 80s design oriented. Products, design pieces, art, photography and consumer items that I find essential to the 80s aesthetic. I'll be introducing these new sections after the site's fourth birthday in February, I hope it will be content you find interesting and entertaining. It will not effect the amount of music coverage on Synthetix.FM, the new content will be in addition to the regular music reviews and Synthetix Sundays episodes. I'm really looking forward to sharing many more of my 80s passions with you throughout 2016, it's gonna be rockin to the max!

I'd also like to thank Marko Maric for all he has done for the music in 2015. The Synthetix Sundays shows are a spectacular showcase for the best of the scene and offers so many opportunities for producers to share their stories and music. The endless hours that go into producing the show is something Marko does purely for love, and I greatly look forward to working with him throughout 2016. Many thanks to Jazzi, Paul, Dallas, Micky, Larry and the other regular contributors to the show. It's a phenomonal success that I hope keeps on rockin and it's an honour to have a spot on the show as well as it being a part of the Synthetix family.

Compiling this year's favourite music was an interesting, as always, experience in really focusing on what music I loved the most over the past 12 months. I must, as always, preface these Top Tens as being solely my own opinion. They're not based on sales or listens or anyone elses opinion but my own. One of the absolute hardest categories to do this year was the Top Ten Albums. So, so many great albums came out in 2015, so many wonderful experiences that thrilled from beginning to end that it was exceedingly hard to get it down to 10 only but the labouring I've had over the order of all these Top Tens over the last couple of weeks has got me to a point where I'm confident they reflect my musical loves and passions for the year. So, let's get rockin with the Top Tens of 2015 on Synthetix.FM

Top 10 Soundtrack Synth

1, Blood Ninja - City Project
2, Transport Beauty - Phaserland
3, Tequila Sunrise - Le Matos
4, Towards The Island Universe - Dynatron
5, Ninja Eliminator 4: The French Connection - Thomas Barrandon
6, A New Market - Chuck Shumann & Trevor Bennett
7, Mooginizer - Interstellar Travel
8, Story - Cobra Copter
9, Viracocha - Like Mowrey
10, News Report - Alpha Boy

Top 10 Electro Funk Synth

1, Quantum Flux - Damokles
 Don't Stop - McKlain
3, Do The Math - Slanger
4, Tergiversation - Satori In Bed
5, Maverick - Fanateek One with Rach B
6, We Just Wanna Dance - Beat Ratio
7, On The Streets - Garth Knight
8, Shopotheosis - USA Gold
9, Negotiations - Robert Parker
10, Break Dancer - AlphaRISC

Top 10 OutRun Synth

1, Guided By Moonlight - Betamaxx
2, Feed To Kill - Thomas Barrandon
3, Felony Evading - Streetcleaner
4, Tony Chaw Is Dead - Volkor X
5, Ride All Night - September 87
6, Endurance - Destryur
7, Highway Lovers - VHS Dreams
8, Chase On Brickell - Bart Graft
9, Does He Look Like A Bitch - Occams Laser
10, Reality Time - Unitra

Top 10 Dark Synth

1, Paradise Warfare - Carpenter Brut
2, The Wrath Of Code - Dan Terminus featuring Perturbator
3, Bathory Bitch - GosT
4, Chryslerpés - REZNYCK
5, Operation Munich (Extended Version) - Vercetti Technicolor
6, Pathfinder - Vector Hold
7, Hour Of The Wolf - Oscillian
8, Una Notta Violenta - Nighcrawler
9, On The Verge - 20SIX Hundred
10, Purgatory Theme - Europaweite Aussichten

Top 10 Italo Disco Synth

1, Star Rhythm - Galspace Project
2, Everytime - 23rd Underpass
3, Tear - Lost Years
4, Glory Days - Plaisance
5, Complications - Ben Businovski
6, Glider - Dallas Campbell
7, Playing Space - Interval - Andrey Zhitnev
8, Let's Faux - Map Of The World At Night
9, Planet - TDHDriver
10, Sorceror - Paladin

Top 10 Synth Romance

1, Reminiscence - IamManolis
2, Virtual Sunset - Starbound
3, Roads - Vincenzo Salvia
4, Everything - LA Dreams
5, Drifting Away - Timecop1983
6,  Summer Rain - Myrone
7, Any Given Moment - RF Extreme
8, Last Days Of Sun - Sunglasses Kid with Phaserland
9, Ocean Drive - Sub Morphine
10, Lost With You - First Impressions with Ghost Mall

Top 10 Synthwave

1, The Pump - Flash Arnold
2, Future - Mahoney
3, Jimmy - Pumping Body
4, Running From The Past - Nitelight
5, Long Before Morning - Hello Meteor
6, Look At Me - Damokles
7, Allegiance - Mick Mclane
8, Amped - LA Dreams
9, Crime Ridden Wasteland - Mythical Vigilante
10, Summer Is Coming - Run Vaylor

Top 10 Synth Pop

1, Save You - Highway Superstar with Sebastian Gampl and Miranda Carey
2, Lifeline - Foret De Vin
3, True Survivor - Mitch Murder with David Hasselhoff
4,Julienne  - D U E T T featuring Stuart Lockwood
5, Chasing The Sunset - Miracle Cat
6, Motorcade - Beckett
7, Burning Fever - Kristine
8, Mesmerised - Jordan F featuring Dana Jean Phoenix
9, Nothing To Burn - Freeweights
10, I Don't Mind - Glass Apple Bonzai

Top 10 Electronica

1, Company Regulations - Amazing Police
2, Meta Valley (Extended Mix) - Abelard
3, Videoscape - B o d y l i n e
4, Back To Life - Killstarr
5, Send Him In - Oscillian
6, Body Heat - Robots With Rayguns
7, Meteor Wave - Skript
8, Wrong Number - Tanimura Midnight
9, Seaside - Z A N D A
10, Variations - Raikman

Top 10 EPs of 2015

1, Winner - Sebastian Gampl
2, Ep III - Carpenter Brut
3, Victory Lap - Pengus
4, OST - Thomas Barrandon
5, Mind Game - IamManolis
6, Jai Alai - Plaisance
7, Resemblance In Machine - Phaserland
8, Solar Drifter - Waveshaper
9, Interfaces - Format 440
10,Kosanagi-no-Turugi - Kyoto Dragon

Top 10 Albums of 2015

1, Volume I - TEK
2, Endgame - Highway Superstar
3, Retrograde - Beckett
4, The Wrath Of Code - Dan Terminus
5, Turbo Kid OST - Le Matos
6, CS005 - Maethelvin
7, Kristine - Kristine
8, Borderline - D U E T T
9, The Cold Rise From Sleep - 20SIX Hundred
10, Paper Objects - LA Dreams

And to complete this year's Synthstravaganza festivities we have the Synthetix.FM Ultimix 2015. The top four tracks from each top ten mixed into a two and a half hour plus time capsule of what music rocked me the most over the last 12 months.

Synthetix.FM will be on vacation now until late January 2016 when we'll be back and rockin hard. Many thanks to everyone who's become part of the Synthetix community and who supports the music we all love. Much love from the extended Synthetix.FM family to yours.


  1. Rick, this was such an incredible look back on the year in 80s-inspired synth, thank you! I loved reading such a wide-ranging analysis about what transpired (good and bad), influences that predominated, trends that ebbed and flowed...all from the guy who has seen it all! I was equally thrilled to read about what Synthetix.FM has in store for 2016, and I can't wait to see it all play out. Stay rockin', synth brother!

    1. Oh, and how could I forget: a huge THANK YOU for including me among your top-tens, it is a tremendous honor. Cheers!

    2. Thanks for all the support, Ethan rocker! Here's to a totally rad 2016!