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Gunship “Tech Noir” Breakdown (synthctrl.com)
220 points by ecliptik 41 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 76 comments

I love this song. The only thing that's stickier for my brain is "Fly for your life" IFF I'm stupid enough to open the video [1] on youtube. I find it interesting that the visuals are not made specifically for this track. But the original video [2] never had the appeal of the gunship version, and it's not even just the music, but mostly the editing. Really goes to show how much good editing matters.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv1ZN8c4_Gs

[2] https://youtu.be/qPELcGcVHfU

I don't know exactly why, but the friends-and-fans-collab video to "When you grow up, your heart dies" made me tear up quite a bit


I sort of enjoy the dissonance of knowing that this was specifically, almost cynically, crafted to emotionally affect people of my age and background, rather than to express any genuine feeling on the part of the composer, and being emotionally affected by it. It's the feeling of being subjected to an ingenious hack.

> rather than to express any genuine feeling on the part of the composer

Having found Gunship a few years ago, I'm not sure that this is true. At least one of the members is in their 40s, and based upon their other works, they definitely seem to have a love of the 80s and 90s (at least the media of it).

This feels so wierd to watch. I was a kid when all the referenced pop culture was created. Then having the realization that many/most of the people in the video were not alive when these movies were released.

My entire childhood just flashed before my eyes. What a great video. Non-stop nostalgia. Thanks!

That Fly for your life music video is amazing. Thank you for posting it.

It made me look into the making of the visual elements [0] and a more technical look here [1] of the short film "Paths of Hate".

Given some (or all?) of the elements are 3D models, that would make a great experience in VR.

Would it be possible to have it as a VR music video?, or do those compositing shots/passes mean you wouldn't see the same thing? Amazing how creative people are... and how much work goes into such work.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9B1eJ40IWwk [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ1J9Af01PY

This song got seriously stuck in my brain for a bit, and not just the melody but the video as well. What I didn’t know is that it wasn’t the original video for the song and honestly somehow that makes me feel better about it.

For those reading this comment that listen to The Adventure Zone and finished the first season, there is an amazing edit of fan art as a music video to Hey Brother that will hit you right in the feels about Taako’s story. It’s not the same genre, obviously, but I bring it up because context + music + amazing editing = magic in that case also.

Amazing music and video. Thanks!

I saw a post here about a similar dogfight in the macross anime, not sure what happened to it. Probably this one:


It's always nice to watch planes flying.


Synthwave is funny, but I don't have any real affection for it because it lacked eros. Even though I like a lot of the original artists it borrows tropes from, the pecularity of synthwave is it does it all without any edge. It's the easiest of smooth listening, which I think is its point. Bret Easton Ellis wrote American Psycho about the very people original synthwave was written for in the 80's, and I suppose that's what makes it such an amazing and appealing retro movement today.

The music is like the bland, empty affect part of the Patrick Bateman character's outward personality, which only barely concealed the serial killer "depth" on his inside. Any edge in synthwave at all appears to be playing on this, where the smoother it is, the more meta and uncanny it seems, and with it the implication of extreme and bizzare hidden depths behind it. Like a David Lynch theme.

To me this makes synthwave perfect for the way millenials and younger people have had to manage their smooth social brand exterior in every concievable micro aspect of their lives, down to the organization of their bathrooms because it's all being competitively scrutinized for performance on video. When I hear synthwave, to me it is the soundtrack to embracing that insanity, which I don't have, but can appreciate.

Maybe people just like it, but that seems more insane than I'm really prepared to consider.

I'd like to start by saying you made a very good argument here, but I would like to make some comments of my own as someone who is absolutely infatuated with this genre. You mention that a lot of synthwave is easy listening, but ironically most of the synthwave artists I tend to enjoy are a lot more "hardcore" I'd list 'carpenter brut','dance with the dead' and 'master boot record' as some good counterexamples to what you described. As for the social aspect, many people agree that the movie 'Drive' really kicked off the modern synthwave movement with its soundtrack and how the music played into the actions of the main character. The interesting thing about that movie is that it exists in a world almost directly opposite of what you described as "smooth social brand exterior" all the characters are living in some form of grime or filth, and the main character is a socially stunted badass. This movie (atleast for me) really set the stage of what synthwave conveyed, its fantasy of what I was told growing up were better times. Hotline Miami is another piece of art that prominently uses the genre to convey harsh ultra violent scenes of death and destruction, the beat and tempo drive the player to move quickly and kill swiftly in these dingy crime infested apartment complexes. Because I was so heavily influenced by Drive and Hotline Miami I see the genre as this brooding soundtrack for antihero's, like the kind of music that plays when the protagonist does some horrible stuff and subsequently smokes a cigarette looking off into the distance trying to understand what they just did. I'll post some example tracks below of darker stuff that fits this ethos.




I'm also a Master Boot Record fan (and of his crypto puzzles), but he's more metal driven instead of the uncanny reflections of regular synthwave.

With you on the movie Drive as the aesthetic origin of the revival though. I'd still say that the mumblecore/normcore element of Drive is an expression of the same kind of psychopathic dull affect Ellis was writing about, except Drive was about working people struggling instead of city bankers.

I make a lot of music that is influenced by what happened outside and after that 80s synth genre, as I think what happened was the paralell thread of the 80s, which was holdovers from industrial and minimalist pioneers in the 70s influenced aphex twin, autechre, orbital, future sound of london, and eventually breaking through to the mainstream with underworld and chemical brothers.

There is a godawful almost secret album by Underworld when they were an 80s synth band, that captures the end of the synthwave moment just before they really became Underworld (pre dubnobasss) when synthy alt culture met dance/techno. My own stuff (in recent comment history) riffs on that transitional era between industrial, techno, punk, and what would become electronica. Super fun topic!

MBR is fantastic for lifting heavy things. I haven't ever engaged in any of the puzzles, but I do enjoy the obscure references to crufty old Windows tech. :)

> my own stuff

Link, please??

I have to agree with you. For me synthwave guys like Peturbator, Danger, Carpenter Brut, am 1984 [0] et al (even com truise) conjure imagery like Blade Runner, Clockork Orange, Neuromancer, the anime world of Ghost in the Shell, driving alone late at night in an empty city, slow motion violence, and sex. Maybe both at the same time.

[0] https://youtu.be/UxA5ckl7y58

Perturbator is especially good at bridging synthwave with [0] industrial. I used to listen to a lot of Antigen Shift, Muted Logic, Cenotype, Formalkaline and Scrap.edx prior discovering this subgenre. I suppose being influenced by the frequent DNA Lounge attendance mostly contributed to this lean.

Dance with the Dead [1] also does this particular well along with Turbo Knight [2][3].

[0] https://soundcloud.com/perturbator/perturbator-tactical-prec...

[1] https://soundcloud.com/dancewiththedead

[2] https://soundcloud.com/turboknight/mirrorverse

[3] https://soundcloud.com/turboknight/vosto-turbo-knight-haruki...

oh man, this stuff is awesome, thank you very much.

Hmm, this comment certainly has its own passionate "depth" of criticism, associating millennials and "younger people" with serial killers.

Do you think you might be projecting some of your own feelings or inner pains onto these groups? Or could it be that you have more to learn about even the complexity of others' inner feelings? It's a strangely broad brush to paint with...

If you have missed the point, it was that what makes the genre appealing is that the tension it expresses speaks to the dichotomy of private and public self, as exemplified by a character that resonated at the time the origins of the genre were written, and which is a tension that is defining to the experience of people today. Though this example of concrete thinking is fairly consistent with the effects of that tension.

I can appreciate that you have this personal opinion of the genre and I have a completely opposite experience.

I dig synthwave specifically for the eros and hard listening, and I'm in my mid 40s.

> To me this makes synthwave perfect for the way millenials and younger people have had to manage their smooth social brand exterior in every concievable micro aspect of their lives

I think the popularity of Synthwave has a lot to do with the Stranger Things series, which used a lot of 80s nostalgia synths.

I think in it is the opposite way round: Synthwave seems to be nostalgia for a simpler time when technology was something people controlled, rather than now where it seems technology increasingly controls people.

I disagree with everything you’ve said about the genre; but as applied to the specific song listed in the article I agree with you wholeheartedly.

If you love synthwave check out Mega Drive’s VHS album. It’s epic and not known by many. I’ve seen acts like Com Truise live and I think Mega Drive is seriously under appreciated. It has a Neuromancer or Johnny Mnemonic cyberpunk urban dark city feel. VHS is incredible and quite raw.


Checkout Boostergangs by misanthropix. Def the sickest synthwave tune


Trevor Something - Trevor Something Does Not Exist


Hands down my favourite in that genre.

That sound is amazing. The cover reminds me of the protomen albums.

I love Mega Drive! The earlier works are really great too. A favorite:


A couple of these songs come up on Spotify mixes for me regularly, I really love them.

John Carpenter was recently interviewed on BBC Radio 3, if you’re into this sort of thing:


”[John Carpenter and Matthew Sweet] discuss John's iconic scores for Halloween, Escape from New York, Escape from LA, The Fog, Vampires and Village of the Damned.

John explains how he came to work with the great Ennio Morricone who wrote the score for 'The Thing'. He describes the great pleasure he now gets from writing themes for imaginary films in the 'Lost Themes' series, and the joy that performing his music live has brought him.”

Hackernews always surprises me, who could believe there are so many synthwave lovers in this forum.

Synthwave is the greatest genre of music as far as I'm concerned.

> Synthwave is the greatest genre of music as far as I'm concerned.

I agree - Synthwave is where my weirdest and most enjoyable music journey began.

If you are a fan of synthwave, you may also enjoy stuff like techno bunker (slightly more minimal). Spotify decided to start lacing playlists with this stuff and my monkey brain got addicted really fast.

Something about the repetitive minimalism of these genres turns me into a coding terminator. I find I forget the music is going after about 5 minutes into the first track. That's not to say this is the only reason I listen to this music, but it's one fun benefit. It's a bit harder for me to concentrate externally when listening to things like trap instrumentals or dubstep (not that these are invalid sub-genres either - I really enjoy them too).

> Hackernews always surprises me, who could believe there are so many synthwave lovers in this forum.

Funny, I always assumed the hn type crowd was the target audience for stuff like synthwave.

Don't mess with the playback controls people! If you make your own controls I guarantee they will be worse than built in media controls. I'm on mobile and I have no idea if that is 3min or 30 min track (because of no indicator) and I can't seek/skip. Leaving audio element "as is" would make it 100% better. You make it pretty but useless.

Also worth checking:

Timecop1983 - Night Drive (https://songwhip.com/timecop1983/night-drive)

The Midnight - Days of Thunder (https://songwhip.com/the-midnight/daysofthunder)

Also Lazerhawk

Skull and Shark - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYvqDqoYXMY

Redline - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpDn4-Na5co (my intro to the genre closing on a decade ago).

Trevor Something - Trevor Something Does Not Exist


Hands down my favourite in that genre.

The Midnight are great. This is one of my favorites:

Gloria (https://youtu.be/18-Ye2L3ej8)

And to toss in one more by The Midnight, "Jason" is fantastic - love the sax, the synth, and the beat:


And then there's this that always gets paired up with Gloria on youtube


Came here to recommend The Midnight. Different style than Gunship but an excellent more pop-ish compliment.

The Midnight's songs Los Angeles and Sunsets were the first two songs I came across in Synthwave and got me addicted. Now I have a playlist called CODING SUCKS[1] that I put on repeat and random all day while I work.

[1]: https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/coding-sucks/pl.u-7m7uxm...

Another nice artist, Efence: https://efence.bandcamp.com/

Most famous is Spaceflight: https://efence.bandcamp.com/track/spaceflight

Here’s a recreation of part of “Fly For Your Life” I did a couple of years ago just as a sound design challenge. The synth sounds were created in U-he Repro 5, which is the best softsynth available for these kinds of sounds, IMO.


Wow... very good job!

U-he's synths are amazing.

Thanks! Yeah Urs really seems love what he does and it shows in the quality of his plugins. If I’m doing synthwave, I usually go for Repro or Diva (which is also incredible). I have a number of analog hardware synthesizers and while they have their place and can be great fun, I find myself using them less and less and using plugins more and more.

Gunship is so unique. I feel like their sound transcends generations, in that it feels just as fitting for the 80s as it does for the 2020s. Very few bands get that vibe.

“Drone Racers” is my personal favorite


The Midnight, I'm actually biased as they are my favorite band, but you should check them out they also have timeless sound.

Ty will do

I've started a Spotify playlist of songs/albums recommended in the discussions here:


Fantastic! Thank you for compiling this playlist :)

Since other users are posting their favorite Synthwave songs, I'll add some of mine:

FM Attack - Dreamer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ88xK3XmpQ

Mitch Murder - In The News - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dz7rK3Eks4s

Mitch Murder - Television - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_h7AM9UeaA (Contains clips from Videodrome, possibly NSFW)

Miami Nights 1984 - Ocean Drive - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC42MRmiAt0

Droid Bishop - Stunner - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YEk5iD2dUk

iamMANOLIS - My Future Girlfriend Video - (WARNING: Video contains some strobing) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TuiZMrHMiU

Arcade Summer - Ocean Break - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXdXywI4-qM

Miami Horror - Bellevue - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZFCmZZKB70 (the most popular video is better but NSFW)

I've been into Italo disco for much of my life, it's similar but usually relentlessly positive/upbeat in comparison with some Synthwave tracks.

Can recommend Carptenter Brut's remix of this also. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr7Lt3sP9QI

If you want a pretty solid intro to this genre and music like it I would suggest the Night Ride FM mixes. You can find them on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0tKnpDwTio

I recommend the Song Exploder podcast for fans of this post. It goes deep on each component of a song, the influences, and often has interviews with the creators.

Gunship was my entry into this field. Many other artists I admire too - Waveshaper, https://waveshaper1.bandcamp.com/album/mainframe - Oscillian, https://oscillian.bandcamp.com/ - Code Elektro, https://codeelektro.com/ - Morgan Willis, https://morganwillisofficial.bandcamp.com/ - FM-84, https://fm84.bandcamp.com/

also, perfect music to endlessly hack on code.

Ow, cool to see this featured here and the discussion around it.

The whole album is great. It’s available on Bandcamp and absolutely worth owning: https://gunshipmusic.bandcamp.com/album/gunship

Not related to Tech Noir, but since people are posting their favorites in this thread: Gunship released "Art3mis and Parzival" [0] a couple weeks before the movie Ready Player One was released.

I had liked the book and was looking forward to the movie. I listened to the music video probably hundreds of times on loop, and then, when I finally saw the movie, I wished it had been more like the music video.

[0] https://readyplayerone.fandom.com/wiki/Art3mis_%26_Parzival_...

I think Gunship are one of the few bands in this genre that are mostly using original synth hardware from the 80s. Not a cheap pursuit these days.

Getting close in a VSTi and publishing a breakdown is a nice way to sell your presets I guess!

Crying Vessel is another good synthwave project. There're also gems like Boy Harsher, Zanias, HTRK. Lots of great musicians hidden away in that scene. I maintain a project aimed at obtaining/transcribing, and publishing rare lyrics, can be found here: https://lyrics.github.io/

Another recommendation: https://youtu.be/zMhEJ0CKUEI

Serum is such a wonderful and visual, intuitive synthesizer. There is also a free one, Vital, which is comparable, but Serum still is one of the most popular and versatile ones around for a reason. Visualizing the waveforms was such a breakthrough moment for me when really trying to understand how everything actually is working under the hood.

Seems like a ton of people here enjoy synthwave! Here's a big ole dump of synthwave I've got on Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0uLlGEXFZwaSjzSoeFKMBE?si=...

While we're at it, I should really recommend Mitch Murder - Breeze, particularly the unofficial video, which is really a clip from Skateboard Kings (1978)


This is seriously cool and interesting.

Do anyone have tips on how to get off the ground for someone whos experience can be summarized to something like 1 hour of fruity loops but who now starts to get some free time? (videos, explanations etc that start from scratch)

If you don't mind the, uh, colourful presentation, the You Suck at Producing series (and channel with the same name) on YouTube is pretty good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kjCxfEZZKo - he also does pretty regular livestreams doing critique and analysis of user-submitted tracks.

If you're looking for a free wavetable synth comparable to Serum from the article, I recommend Vital: https://vital.audio - there's a fairly active community forum there as well.

There's a hands-on educational program called Syntorial that introduces you step-by-step to all the features of a typical subtractive synth using just your ear. On every step, you listen to a sound producible with the features you've unlocked so far and recreate what you hear, then it tells you which parameters weren't quite right so you learn what to listen for to hone your ear.

Subtractive synthesis is different from wavetable synthesis, but most of the concepts transfer. And Syntorial even has a free download (after the initial purchase) which covers Serum specifically, as well as a couple other industry standard synths.

It might be pricey depending on how invested you are in learning, but they have a demo so you can see what you're in for.

From my perspective, outside messing around by yourself, I don't know of a more cost-effective way to learn everything that it covers, and it saves significant time over messing around.

Fruity loops is great, since it comes with everything you need. Reason used to be another good choice but I haven't used it in many years.

The best advice I was given relating to this exact question (20 years ago) was to invest in a midi keyboard, stick with one piece of software and use my free time experimenting with it. That's it. Watching youtube videos is a complete waste of time in my opinion, since a lot of that crowd has fallen into the trap of reviewing one plugin after another, without really being able to create art. At best it's a circlejerk of mimicry and patterned-knowledge regurgitation.

Great track, and as someone very non-musical I always love seeing breakdowns like this.

https://theriseofthesynths.com/ is a somewhat interesting documentary on the synthwave scene (requires payment).

I would love to see more of these technical breakdowns of songs on hacker news.

Bookmarking this thread. Lots of good recommendations to chase down. Thanks

I've done a lot of synthwave discovery via Spotify - once you've listened to a few artists, it quickly supplies a lot more. It seems to do this much better for synthwave than for many other genres i've listened to!

That said, Gunship and Starcadian are the only synthwave artists i've liked enough to actually get out my wallet for, and i think i heard both of them from recommendations. I probably will for Occam's Laser at some point, who i think i first heard on Spotify.

I don't use Spotify.

My "in" was Trevor Something - Death Dream as a freeleech staff pick on w.cd. From there I've discovered a lot by searching for popular artists on certain tags and branching out.

I get my wallet out regularly for Hello Meteor, Trevor Something, and George Clanton despite being very active in the torrent scene.


People publishing their opinion on the internet don't owe you anything.

Well I certainly don’t owe them an upvote, or my approval in general. Not sure where you’re going with that argument.

Yes. Especially the idea of paragraphs that contain multiple sentences.

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