What struck me immediately while watching the new film Drive was the opening credits are coolly smoothed over with a new genre of music called Chillwave (sometimes known as Dreamwave). The film broods with it throughout piling on murky, disconnected tension as we wonder what will happen to the main protagonist. Like a lot of of the best modern music, its strikingly familiar yet not quite what you what you’ve heard before.
While fresh and ill-defined, Chillwave is ambient music drawing on early to mid-80 synthesizers and loops coupled melodic, usually female vocals. With vocals, it can sound like ethereal ambient meets Alex Legrand of Beach House. Without vocals, it can remind you of the Bladerunner soundtrack. The more upbeat Dreamwave is much more clearly 80s. Its almost as if that Casio keyboard from school has been cleaned up but faithfully still churning out catchy genius in 4:4 time.
I first heard dreamwave from my friend Oli, a great guitarist who moved into making chillwave over the last few years producing Electric Sun. Driving down the quiet Sunday streets of Nottingham basking in winter sun, our dreamwave was the perfect accompaniment to our absent, hungover minds. It brought on a serendipitous smile.
You might not know any chillwave/dreamwave artists. Names you might know associated with the genre include Panda Bear (of Animal Collective), Neon Indian, Toro Y Moi or a bit of the last LCD Soundsystem album. A personal favourite producer is Miami Nights 1984 bringing the sounds of Miami hey-days into the present era. But few are famous. Its still regularly made in bedrooms which fortunately means you can find it on the internet pretty easily. Do it. It’ll make you smile during revision or on a hungover Sunday morning.
(Oh and watch Drive, Carey Mulligan has the most fantastic smile)