Synthwave Sunday: Miami Nights 1984, Turbulence
I once witnessed someone describe synthwave to an unwitting friend as an entire genre of music based on doing cocaine in Miami in the 1980s. Michael Glover took that inspiration quite literally when naming his project Miami Nights 1984, but judging from his music — in true ’80s fashion — he doesn’t limit the consumption of Colombia’s finest to just the after hours; this shit’ll have you zipping right through the sunrise and on into the day until the sun goes down and it’s time to do it all over again.
The Miami Nights 1984 Soundcloud page has an exhaustive bio of Glover’s history, but the short version is this: he was one of the earliest artists in the genre with his ActRazer project, and he started Miami Nights 1984 in 2010 at the same time as launching a label dedicated to the genre with fellow pioneer Lazerhawk, Rosso Corsa Records.
Oddly enough Glover is about as far on the North American continent as you can possibly be from Miami, both culturally and geographically: Victoria, British Columbia. But perhaps that distance serves to stimulate the imagination and make the experience even richer than it ever was. Isn’t that what synthwave is all about anyway? A revised, retro-futurist version of the past. Because let’s be honest, none of the people listening to this stuff (including me), are old enough to have truly experienced it when it was all happening even though we’re all children of the ’80s.
Listen to 2012’s Turbulence and you’ll understand why Glover’s been doing it for as long as he has and is so well-respected: he’s one of the best, a true master of songwriting in a genre where songwriting is everything. Everything, that is, except for the sickest synth sounds imaginable, which Miami Nights 1984 has in spades: these are the gnarliest, sickest, most visceral tones every one of us was trying unsuccessfully to massage out of our 61-key Casio when we were kids.
But it’s the aforementioned songwriting that sticks, and Miami Nights 1984’s posi-vibe arrangements get at something much lighter and a whole lot less sinister than some of the more hard–charging artists in the genre. It’s all smiles on the surface, anyway: an evil underbelly always lurks when such dark tones are in play. “New Tomorrow” sounds like exactly that, an upbeat, major key paean that leaves you feeling as if whatever horrible, terrifying crap you’ve had to endure is just water under the bridge. “Clutch” will have you zooming down a highway — an elevated one somewhere high above Miami, concrete crumbling from the facade onto the poor fuckers whose neighborhoods were systematically decimated in the great suburban boom of the 1950s — with the top down, flip-up lights popped and hair flowing in the breeze, unaware of the carnage and misery below. “Streets on Fire” might just be the soundtrack to your next dance party, but make sure those pills you’re about to pop are from a reputable source, otherwise shit might get real weird real fast.
Our lives are awesome — we KILL it on a daily fucking basis — but at the same time we’re colossally fucked up and damaged. We live every moment like it’s the last, but what will it all ultimately lead to? That’s how this music makes me feel. So chop another line and snort it if ya got it before you pop on Turbulence, and live in the moment all you can.