Monday, October 28, 2013


An short film titled "Nostalga" was posted on VIMEO recently that explores the different tangible expressions /representations of longing for the past.

It's interesting to note that even the visual presentation and editing emulates a VHS cassette - a piece of technology that simply isn't used any longer, but evokes deep feelings in those who wistfully remember them.

During the video a word is mentioned, but without description: Saudade.

Saudade is a fascinating term, as it described an emotional state I've felt, but never had a word for until recently. "Nostalga", "Longing", or "wistful remembrance"  come close, but are still lacking. Saudade describes a deep emotional state of longing for something or someone that is absent - either in present or the past. This also applies to the sadness of future loss where the object of affection is present now but will be gone later.

A key difference between nostalga and saudade-seeped remembrance is the realization that the object(s) of your affection may never have existed in the way you remember them. It isn't simply the absence of a toy from your childhood, or a specific album you had long ago - it's the sadness that comes from realizing that you can never recapture the same set of circumstances and perception you once had. 

I've experienced this frequently as I listen to music and television - certain chords or sound  sets remind me of childhood listening experiences. However, I know those experiences are like dreams: think about them for too long, and they disappear like morning dew. All we're left with are the tangible pop culture detritus that triggered these feelings. 

The first time I encountered the term "Saudade" was in the comments section of an article which described a "lost cultural decade": what we view as "80s" or "retro" today. The article shouldn't be read literally (i.e: there's a 10 year span people stopped counting sometime between 1979 and 1992 called the "19A0s"). Instead, the article describes in a very strange way how the expression of nostalgic longing take on particular forms during this era. These expressions (triangles, particular patterns, imagery, colors, etc.) are sampled, recycled, and made new and familiar by writers, artists, and designers in their constant callbacks and pastiche. For current music and visual aesthetics, the 'warmth' of analogue technology (photos, video & music) is often cited as more attractive than the bleak stillness of our present digital environment. 

For individuals born in the 1980s, we experienced the cultural output of that decade in aftermath: reruns, rebroadcasts, and taped VHS recording showed us a window into a world we wanted to be apart of, but never really could.

As one commenter articulated, this caused "nostalgia for something that you never really knew [...] like something on the top of your tongue that you can't fully realize, and makes you sad."

"I always had the sense that there was a giant party going on without me.  It didn’t help to see A-ha cavorting about on MTV in a comic book world where I desperately hoped to join them, and knew I never could; Jem made me hunger for a brave new holographic world I knew didn’t exist, no matter how hard I wished it did.  Even today, I harbor some regret that my life doesn’t look like a John Foxx video [... It was an era spent] trying to catch the phantoms of a pop culture that both he and I were too young to understand yet still desperately wanted to internalize[.]"

For the consumer culture of the 1980s, I experienced a heavy dose of this feeling when watching television in the late 1980s, and early 1990s. Before the connectivity of the internet, North America had a shared multi-channel television culture. With limited viewing options, it had a one-sided homogenizing effect on those watching it. We passively watched and internalized what we were shown without response. The repetitive nature of the analogue edited sound and visuals of pre-internet cable TV was reassuring and comfortable to many.

SMASHTV's Video mix sets are a supercut of '80s/'90s commercials set over top of similar music. The repetitive expressions of VHF-broadcast culture: station idents, clumsy advertisements, and cartoons carry heavily nostalgic cache. They were all sandwedged between television's assurance that they'd be back after "these messages". Decades later, I believe those "messages" aren't the ones they intended. The products and shows advertised are long gone - but the feelings they communicated remain.

For earlier decades, modern music like Belbury Poly on the label "GhostBox" mimics "the electronic avant garde of the 60's-80's period to generate a sense of disquieting nostalgia." is an avid fan of framing this style of music as haunting tunes from a "parallel world". The description is appropriate: Much of this music sounds like it comes from a hazy, half-remembered memory that occurred between 1970 and 1992 - an era I've heard  wistfully called "The Long Eighties".

All of this nostalgia comes with a flip-side:  Do we spend our years revelling in what was, rather than what will be?

An interesting post on 'The Golden Age syndrome' is worth reading. It looks at the wider implications of (western) culture and it's reliance on recycled pastiche of it's own past. The author rightly asks "What other generation spent its youth, money, energy, and talents denying its own time?"

I feel that our nostalgic longings for representations of the past come from a similarity of expression: our own memories have no clean edges. The way we store experiences and emotion are imperfect, and subject to unanticipated change over time.  
To those who grew up with the warmth of CRT-tube static, the still sharpness of a high-definition television's blue screen unintentionally alienates us.

Time will tell if musical and aesthetic interests of future generations will continue to look back and reinterpret memories of our analogue past - or embrace the singularity-like world to be.

For more saudade-inducing content, I'd suggest:

A discussion on the original term @ NPR:
Saudade: An Untranslatable, Undeniably Potent Word


Maserati - Psych Post Rock

Given my interest in artists identified as psychedelic rock like Weird / Memory tapes:


- it makes sense I'd enjoy Maserati:

More information here on the group's website. There's a scattering of tracks available on their label's Soundcloud, but a better selection can be found on Youtube.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Jacob 2-2: Like the Com Truise of your Childhood

I recently came across Jacob 2-2's album "Herbivore", which sounds like a remix of 80's TV memories (station idents, Saturday morning cartoons, vintage toys), combined with the warbly synth sounds (similar to that of Com Truse or Neon Indian). However, the semi-IDM, kinda-sorta Synthwave sound is hard to classify. Generally though, it's awesome.

Something else that I loved about this album was the description. Jacob 2-2's successfully articulated something that I've felt for a long time about my childhood:

A common motif found in youth-oriented sci-fi and fantasy films of the 1980′s is the image of the young protagonist, isolated in his/her own playroom. Often he/she is placed under such supervision for purposes of research or quarantine due to psychic powers, alien interaction, or robotic physiology. Alone with toys and televisions, the child is free to create and to consume stimuli from the outside world, but not to interact with it. 

Jacob 2-2‘s new album Herbivore attempts to re-create this fictional universe, or perhaps an expression of the child’s psychology that extended into adulthood, suspended in an isolated, diminutive, and asexual state, where the only joy is found internally within the imagination. 
I just bought the 17 track album digital album (currently for $6 at his labels' Bandcamp), and it's good listening. I'm fairly certain a track or two of his will make it's way into some upcoming mixed sets, as that pitch-bent synth, fuzzy VHS sound really appeals to me. 

For more of the same, I'd recommend checking out my earlier posting about SMASHTV 'Memorx' Video/Music remix sets.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sidewalks and Skeletons

I've been listening to "Sidewalks and Skeletons" for the past month or two, and I'm thoroughly impressed with what he's doing.

Taking some soundsets associated with (what's generally thought of as) Witchhouse, mixed with an almost Memory Tapes vibe, he's produced an album and a few remixes thus far.

More here:


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sources of Dreamwave

One of the few uses I have for Facebook is to access an RSS feed-like updates to various graphic artists and music groups.

One of the best gateways to what's available in the genre of 80's-esk modern music is "The Future Sound of the Past":

It's well worth subscribing to if you're interested in seeing Dreamwave / Space Synth-wave / Electronic Dreams / Gold Funk / and Film Soundtrack posts in your news feed, and less into photos of what people had for dinner.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mr. Kitty Synthpop

I came across Mr. Kitty through the great IdieYouDie music blog, which includes a full set of the 'LIFE' album that I sadly can't embed here. Album info here.

The album review by Alex at IDYD is thorough, and I agree with the unique sound this synthpop presents, while sounding comfortably familiar. Some tracks remind me of Depeche Mode, others of Crystal Castles, etc. Well worth checking out.

Monday, June 17, 2013

MEO - Rescue Me EP & new Makeup and Vanity Set Album

Via the Thomas Barrandon remix,
I came across this really neat (and currently free download) EP for MEO's EP. For some reason, the female voice over reminds me of Makeup & Vanity Set's 88:88 Film score track 'A Glowing Light, a Promise". Makeup & Vanity Set also appear to have a new mini-album out too, which is worth checking out:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Latest Tracks

 Soundcloud is a great site. Taking the best elements from the old myspace,, and other music-related websites, it's created an amazing resource for finding new music.

For an every growing array of synthwave, chillwave, and other music that sounds like it came from an alternate universe circa 1980, visit the 'ThisStuffIsWonderful' Soundcloud 'like' page.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Synthetix's Top 80's Inspired Synth tracks of 2012

Track listing from Synthetix's post:

Mirror Kisses - Kameron

Memorex : Video Remix of your memories

Came across this through   Memorex from Smash TV.

The music is a mix of vintage audio, expertly mixed with modern retrowave/synthwave/chillwave tracks, with found footage from the 1980s/1990s edited to match.

 "The audio provides a perfect accompaniment to the warped and weirdly nostalgic footage, like finding your favorite cassette from childhood after it’s been baking in the sun for 25 years. An authentic audio/visual package, Memorex was designed to look and feel like the real deal. The ultimate VHS tape.
Is it a lost cultural relic, melted to the dash of an '83 Nissan Sentra? Is it a sinister government experiment, designed to brainwash children into becoming consumer slaves?
Is it the pinnacle of blipverts, sent back in time from 20 minutes into the future? Is it the holy grail of unlabeled VHS tapes, tucked away in the back room of an abandoned Blockbuster?
Is it live, or is it Memorex?
We didn't create your childhood, we just organized it for you. How to brainwash an entire generation. OBEY. CONSUME. THIS IS YOUR GOD.

Watching this super-cut presentation pop culture detritus, and knowing that it (subliminally) structured my childhood causes both nostalgia and horror.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Purity Ring

Purity Ring was brought to my attention by Bruce Lord from I Die:You Die, proving to me that his musical taste continues to be pretty excellent.

Puirty Ring - Amenamy

I'd heard of the band's before, but it was typically associated with Wichhouse / indie dark electronica's low-fi crowd - and that carries with it a whole hipster-pagan, Triangles & Unicode crowd. I enjoy alot of that music, but feel pidgeon holing this band misses the point.

Once I had the chance to listen to their album SHRINES, I was humming it for days. Purity Ring's tracks, if I had to assign a category, fall somewhere in the realm of expertly crafted electropop. The dark, surreal lyrical content works really well with the synth. It's hard to define music like by what's come before - and like my thoughts on "Chillwave" artists, it's probably better for that.

Image credit above goes to a Spin article about the band - well worth checking out. While live, the vocals sometimes land a bit flat, the overall performance with their DIY setup looks pretty neat.

I'll certainly be keeping an eye out on Purity Ring's Facebook page to see when they'll next visit Toronto.

 Purity Ring - Shrine

Purity Ring - Crawlersout

Purity Ring - "Crawlersout" from Tom Beal on Vimeo.

Purity Ring - Lofticries