Labor Day was officially established as a federal holiday in 1894 to acknowledge and celebrate the struggles and sacrifices of the American labor movement in creating prosperity, equality, and safe working conditions at the apex of industrial revolution. Now it’s just an excuse for people to get sunburned and blitzed one last time at the end of summer.
Charlie’s “Spacer Woman” (1979) paired with footage from the animated sci-fi “Fantastic Planet”
I was a weird “indoor kid” growing up (some would I argue I still am), so Labor Day usually meant I could stay up late on Sunday and play Yar’s Revenge until my eyes bled. As I got older the unofficial tradition was to find some rabbit hole of pop culture and use the long weekend to do a deep dive into it. In years past it’s been stuff like MST3K, or Kubrick movies, or watching the entirety of the “Time Team” archaeology series on YouTube.
“80s Tokyo Dream (Italo)”
This year I’ve found a different YouTube rabbit hole that should interest all you Echosynthetic readers. It’s a channel called Are Sounds Electrik?, and it is essentially the 1980s cable show “Night Flight” but specifically for fans of synthpop and synthwave music. The channel’s curator is based in the UK, and it currently boasts over 32 thousand subscribers. It is accurately self-described as: “Showcasing rare and forgotten electronica sounds plus some brilliant contemporary tunes that seem to have got lost in the noise. Plus anything outstanding, beautiful, mournful, funny, touching or bizarre that catches my eye. This channel is my little homage to all those musicians who have produced some of the best electronic music ever.”
Kraftwerk and Klaus Nomi appearing on the same episode of German TV show
At first glance, the hundreds of videos (that span the decades from the 1970s to the present) combining oddball historical ephemera, clever mashups, documentaries, live concert footage, and obscure music videos can be quite daunting. Fortunately, there are several jumping off points centered on famous synth music pioneers such as: John Foxx/Ultravox, Gary Numan, The Human League, Depeche Mode, and Kraftwerk. There are also playlists featuring more obscure synthpop from the past, current synthpop and synthwave, and my favorite – Retro Russian Sounds – featuring Soviet-era attempts at synthpop.
Soviet “Keep Fit” Aerobics Electro (1984)
At this point you’re probably champing at the bit to start enjoying these musical time capsules, so head on over and subscribe!
Here are some more highlights from my relatively brief time over at Are Sounds Electrik?:
Top of the Pops Synthesizer-Centric Episode 1977 (performances by Giorgio Moroder and Space)
“You Don’t Want Me Anymore” (mashup of song “Cubism” by Lazer Kontinent and video for the short film “Plastic Bag”)
45 Minute documentary on the 40th Anniversary of Summers/Moroder “I Feel Love”
Carl Finlow’s “Anomaly” (2002) paired with footage from “The Time Travelers”
When he’s not destroying the evil Qotile, Chris Frain records and performs electronic music under the name “Pattern Language.” You can find the EP, Total Squaresville, on Happy Robots Records at: https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/total-squaresville