Told through the narration of legendary director and composer John Carpenter, The Rise of the Synths takes viewers on a journey of nostalgia and neon through the iconic sounds of the 1980s. Narrated in reverse chronological order, the film is largely a documentary, with aspects of travel exploration as Carpenter guides Synth Rider (Ruben Martinez), a young retro enthusiast, into a brave new world of music technology. Focusing on a genre with one foot tied heavily to the past and one foot equally committed to the future, The Rise of the Synths tracks the rise of synthwave from classic movie scores, to forgotten VHS soundtracks, to a global phenomenon.
“Is it possible to be nostalgic for a time before you were alive?” is the question on the minds of synthwave artists throughout The Rise of the Synths. This fast-paced picture overloads viewers with dazzling retro visuals while discussing pop culture’s impact on synthwave and the artists who make it. With influences ranging from Drive and Stranger Things to classic John Hughes films, The Rise of the Synths discusses the overlap between music and cinema through a classic cyberpunk aesthetic.
“…discusses the overlap between music and cinema through a classic cyberpunk aesthetic.”
The Rise of the Synths is one of those movies that is just effortlessly cool. The atmosphere it creates, the stylized visuals, the commitment to the genre, and the incredible soundtrack produce such a mesmerizing feeling in every frame. Writer-director Ivan Castell displays his passion for the music as he expands on the larger themes of synthwave while also revealing the genre’s very essence through the score. The movie itself is fascinating for film and music fans alike, but adding narration by such a pioneer of synthesizers and cult cinema makes this a must-watch for both fandoms.
As a massive fan of synthwave, I enjoyed this movie from beginning to end. The film captures synthwave’s ability to make you long for the nostalgia of a time that has both passed and has yet to. Some moments can feel disjointed due to rapid shifts in topic, and it occasionally overloads the viewer with information.
However, The Rise of the Synths is still a legitimately fun documentary and will give you countless new artists for any playlist. The first fifteen minutes are a pure adrenaline rush of electronic soundscapes and neon-soaked imagery. I highly recommend this film for fans of 1980s nostalgia, cult classic soundtracks, and synthwave disciples across the globe.
"…the first fifteen minutes are a pure adrenaline rush of electronic soundscapes and neon-soaked imagery."