The Rise of the Synths
The Rise of the Synths (Spanish: La rebelión de los sintes) is a 2019 documentary film written and directed by Iván Castell and narrated by filmmaker and composer John Carpenter. The film explores the origins and growth of the electronic music genre known as synthwave, charting its rise in popularity from the underground online music scene to its recent mainstream exposure following use in retro-themed soundtracks, notably the 2011 film Drive and more recently the television series Stranger Things.
|The Rise of the Synths|
|Directed by||Iván Castell|
|Written by||Iván Castell|
|Narrated by||John Carpenter|
|Edited by||Iván Castell|
It is the first feature documentary exploring this underground subculture.
The Rise of the Synths initially began as a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in April 2016. That campaign failed, and was relaunched in October 2016 on Indiegogo, this time reaching its goal. Over the next year, the film took part of the Documentary Campus Masterschool, also participating in the Doc/Fest Sheffield MeetMarket.
The film had its world premiere at the In-Edit Festival in Barcelona on 1 November 2019, with its international premiere on 15 November in London at the Doc'n Roll Festival. It has also been screened at International Film Festival Rotterdam (Nederlands), Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema (Argentina), F.A.M.E. Festival Paris (France) and Melbourne Documentary Film Festival (Australia).
Along John Carpenter - as narrator - the film contains various interviews with both established and upcoming synthwave artists, exploring their sources of inspiration which range from early electronic pioneers such as Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream to a collective love of 1980's films and video games.
Artists featuring in the film include:
For many of them it was their first time on camera. It is the only time extremely private and anonymous artists like Power Glove, Carpenter Brut, Gost, Lazerhawk, Miami Nights 1984, 80s Stallone or MPM Soundtracks, agreed to be recorded on camera and show their faces. Some of them like Carpenter Brut, MPM Soundtracks, Gost or Power Glove decided to participate but remaining faceless.
The film arch-narrative is driven by a fictional character, the Synth Rider (also known as Synthrider, without spaces), created by Spanish Director Iván Castell in 2015 played by Spanish actor Rubén Martinez. He is a lonely driver who time-travels in a Delorean and who comes from the 80s with the only mission of preserving the legacy of its Masters: the electronic pioneers Giorgio Moroder, John Carpenter, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream (among others).
The character first appeared on the crowdfunding campaign video of the feature documentary The Rise of the Synths that started in April 2016 on Kickstarter. That campaign failed, but the character re-appeared in a second campaign video (as the leader of #LaResistance movement), that re-launched on Indiegogo.
He is the side-protagonist in the feature film, time-travelling - from one influential decade to the previous one - in a Delorean, guided by the voice of the narrator: John Carpenter. As journalist Ben Beaumont-Thomas described at The Guardian review of the film: "Carpenter is employed as a sensei-like narrator, recording his observations on to a cassette tape to be taken back in time by a Gosling-type pretty-boy street punk driving a DeLorean".
The director created him "as an homage of the Mad Max’s Night Rider character and Ryan Gosling in Drive" and as a "metaphor of the time travel backward that most people experience when they discover this subculture. He is the artists, fans, music, films, all together in one person – with a kickass They Live neck tattoo". French journalist Nicolas Plomee points out another reference to the 80s classic film "Back to the future": "The reference to Back to the future (1985) from Robert Zemeckis is accentuated by those scenes, half-way into Drive (2010) from Nicolas Winding Refn, (...) and Mad Max (1979) from George Miller, where the character drives a DeLorean."
Being a readaptation of a longtime archetype used in the retro scene - the lone night rider driving an 80s sport car - the character was well received by the Synthwave fans, and the term Synthrider was adopted organically by the community as a way of referring themselves as Synthwave fans, starting to populate as a hashtag on Twitter and Instagram profiles in 2016.
Director Iván Castell declared that this character wasn't supposed to be in the final film, he was originally created for a mood trailer as a way of catching the attention of film producers. It then was re-used in the first crowdfunding campaign and it worked so well, that he decided to integrate him in the upcoming film.
Reviewing the film, Cinemania said, "It will delight music lovers and fans of synthesizers". Rob Dyson of ForeverSynth says director and writer Ivan Castell "hits all the right notes in terms of why and how the music and iconic imagery appeals - even to those who weren't born in the 70s or 80s." Inaki Ortiz Gasoc at El Contraplano said "The aesthetic is careful and prevents this from being a classic boring documentary of talking heads" with "some fantastic film performances following the canons of the musical movement with its Delorean". Jorge Loser at Espinof commented that "Carpenter's voice serves as a connection between blocks with creative tips and reflections on his career and his role in this whole new movement." The view from the Guardian's Bill Beaumont-Thomas was more mixed, with him praising the film's “admirable production values”, particularly the “impressively produced interstitial [fictional] segments”, but that the documentary was “stylish but shallow” and “trades deep analysis for platitudes and boring asides”.
The film's original soundtrack is composed by OGRE. In support of the film, Lakeshore Records also released an Official Companion Album in 2017  which received positive reviews and featured exclusive music from various synthwave artists.
|1.||"Deckard Returns"||Chrome Canyon||3:32|
|2.||"The Vale of Shadows"||Gunship||6:02|
|3.||"Fatal Affair"||Power Glove||3:26|
|5.||"Idle Withdrawal"||Com Truise||4:20|
|6.||"Lost in a Love"||Daniel Davies||3:44|
|7.||"Silver Shadow"||Robert Parker||5:34|
|8.||"A Mission to Remember"||Waveshaper||5:10|
|9.||"Black Rain"||Code Elektro||4:44|
|10.||"The Osbourne Effect"||German Engineering||2:24|
|11.||"Triage"||Giorgio Moroder & Raney Shockne||2:24|
|12.||"Night Stalker"||Carpenter Brut||3:41|
|13.||"Crash & Burn"||John Bergin||2:47|
|14.||"Dead of Night"||Dance with the Dead||4:06|
|15.||"A Hero's Journey"||Lazerhawk||6:33|
|19.||"Appearance of the Mysterious Traveller"||Voyag3r||7:32|
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- "Twitter hashtag".
- "Instagram hashtag".
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