Original Music By: Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
Duration: 72 minutes
Label: Lakeshore Records
It’s hard to think that anyone could not be a fan of the Netflix 1980s tinged science fiction / horror television series Stranger Things. Season Two is now here, as is the original score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, members of the Austin experimental synth band S U R V I V E.
From the opening track ‘Walkin’ In Hawkins’ we’re back in the familiar sonic territory of warm arpeggiated poly-synths, decorated with shimmering frequency modulated bell like melodies. ‘Home’ and ‘Eulogy’ are both downbeat and melancholic synth segue-ways, possessing a weirdly triumphant and expectant atmosphere. Further cues and brief passages of music are all executed in the nostalgic electronic sonic palette of the era. The track ’Presumptuous’ has a synth and swagger like feel to it, and as with much of this music is in a minor key. The track ’Scars’ has a more atmospheric feel to it, with some drone like and repeating echo textures. Further in to the track list there are some colder sounding pieces, utilising what sound like the FM digital synths of the 1980s, such as the Yamaha DX7. For a period of time these FM synths superseded the warmer voltage based analogue synths of the 1970s which featured heavily in the soundtrack to Season One. Un-Surprisingly this leads to a colder sound of not less interesting and complex modulated sonic patches. The coldness doesn’t take over, the track ‘Looking For a Way Out’ returns to the signature thumping arpeggiated synth lines. As the track list progresses, the music move between the warm sound and the cold sound, which is a marked change from the primarily warm sounds of Season One. Perhaps this mirrors the content of the drama, as I have yet to watch Season Two I am not in a position to comment. The track ‘Soldiers’ has an actual drum machine, and the feel of this piece sounds like Kate Bush era ‘The Dreaming’, or Peter Gabriel era ‘Games Without Frontiers’, a successful pastiche if this was the intention.
I found one of the stand out tracks to be ‘Choices’, which has a spacious and plangent feel to it, in essence a stand alone synth improvisation. With ’We Go Out Tonight’ things are becoming more glamorous, sounds that recall the atmosphere of a nightclub scene from a 1980s TV series featuring detectives Ricardo Tubbs and Sonny Crockett. In total there are 34 tracks for this soundtrack, and a further 15 if you get the bonus Halloween album, available only as part of the Apple Exclusive Deluxe Edition. What is to be applauded is that the soundtrack works as a whole, and remains true to a chosen sonic world that manages to evoke the style of the 1980s but with the tidiness of a present day sheen. So often soundtracks descend into box of tricks filler, and this one doesn’t do that. There are recurring themes and melodies, a sense of a story being told. One of the last tracks on the soundtrack, ‘Levitation’ offers up a Coda of sorts, one can’t help but wonder what will Season Three offer in terms of sonic detail.
Lakeshore Records, in conjunction with Invada Records, released the double album Stranger Things 2 – Original Netflix Series Soundtrack digitally on October 20th. The album will also be available on CD later this year, with an LP forthcoming.