STRANGER THINGS - Volume 1 is a delighful sonic escapade, consisting of 36 tracks totalling just shy of 70 minutes of music. On this soundtrack the music is entirely instrumental and made up of synthesiser sounds. It is packed with sweet simple melodies, sinister arpeggiators, bouncy detuned bass lines, gurgling electronics, and sweeping atmospherics. Composed by musicians Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein (from Austin TX experimental synth quartet S U R V I V E), for the Netflix TV drama STRANGER THINGS. I’ve not seen STRANGER THINGS, but I understand it’s story and production are a bit of a hark back to the 1980s, and this soundtrack suitability evokes the feel of those times. As to be expected there are a plethora of moods; romantic sounding, suspenseful sounding, joyous sounding. The list goes on. But it is all delivered in the simple palette of synthesiser sounds, which gives it it’s own stand alone world.
I felt at an advantage having not seen the TV series, it meant I could project what ever story or scene I wanted on to the music. One track titled ‘Caste Beyers’ manages to build up an enormous amount of tension over one minute, and then fade in to a directionless contemplation for another minute and a half. Thumping drones replaced by fluttery echoes; an odd contradiction. Another track, titled ‘Hawkins’, is more languorous and drifting, with cascading bell like tones. Another track, 'She’ll Kill You’ is surprisingly euphoric, with intense pounding electronic drums. It reminded me of the music of the post-rock band Mogwai, but with feeding back guitars replaced by the saturated tones of filtered synth lines. The weird sounding ‘Hallucinations’ does what it says on the tin, odd figures and distorted atmospheres, like the unwieldy decay of a malfunctioning tape echo machine.
The composers talk about having a familiarity with ‘classic synths’, but composing with a forward thinking approach. I would agree the soundtrack achieves this combination.
It is worth mentioning, especially for readers of blueprint review website, S U R V I V E have performed alongside the re-formed Goblin, the band that composed for and performed the soundtracks for many of horror director Dario Argento’s classic films (films such as Profound Red, Suspiria, and Tenebrae). There were parts of this sound track that reminded me of Goblin, both the dark surrealism of the sounds on the Suspiria soundtrack, but also the hard edged electronic euro bounce of the Tenebrae soundtrack (both well worth checking out). There is also an inivitable comparison to electronic soundtrack pioneers such as John Carpenter and Vangelis.
I found this soundtrack to be full of ideas, moods, and atmospheres. If you are a fan of warm sounding warped synthesisers you will like this soundtrack. Recommended with a rating of 4 stars.
The first season of STRANGER THINGS is available to stream now on Netflix. Lakeshore Records will release STRANGER THINGS - Original Netflix Series Soundtrack Volume 1 digitally on Friday, August 12th and CD September 16th