Matt Forney
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exon spectra

Exon Spectra, Synthwave and the Rebirth of Right-Wing Culture

NOTE: Exon Spectra paid me to write this review of his music. If you’re interested in hiring me for a writing or editing project, click here.

I used to do music reviews and commentary fairly often, both on this blog and my old site In Mala Fide. I stopped several years ago due to my growing alienation from indie rock, the scene in which I grew up. There was no flash of lightning, no sudden realization that the musicians I listened to and their fans were total, unredeemable faggots, but my gradual distaste for indie’s gormlessness and navel-gazing not only drove me away from the scene, but also ruined my desire to restart my music career.

If these were the idiots I had to cater to in order to make a living, I’d rather not produce anything at all.

Music in general is spinning its wheels in the mud like the rest of our miserable, failed civilization. A long time ago, my friend the Bechtloff pointed out that there’s been no true innovation in music for well over twenty years. In the late eighties and early nineties, we had alternative and indie rock, punk, hip-hop, shoegaze and other nascent genres. Everything since then has been variations on these and other genres that were invented long ago.

Enter synthwave, which I was completely unaware of before moving to Budapest. Synthwave—and the alt-right variation on it, fashwave—is pleasant electronic music, ideal for blasting at parties or looping in the background while you work on taking over the world. It typically lacks vocals and takes inspiration from eighties electronic music, reminding me of the chillwave fad from 7-8 years ago. Synthwave in general adopts a retro-futuristic motif rooted in the 1980’s sci-fi and pop culture it springs from; fashwave musicians like Cybernazi and Xurious augment this with references to right-wing politics, European history and Donald Trump.

I like it, mainly because it’s good music that is innovative and isn’t made by onanistic nitwits.

One up-and-coming synthwave musician worth a listen is Exon Spectra. A fan of my work, he recently asked me to take a look at his discography on SoundCloud. Spectra’s work covers a wide range of genres, from traditional synthwave to more laid-back funk-oriented pieces, piano songs and even a chiptune rendition of “Horst Wessel Lied” (which he refers to as “8olf Bitler”). As he cautioned me beforehand, a good number of the songs are unfinished and most don’t have vocals. With these caveats in mind—and considering the hit-or-miss quality of his non-electronic songs—Spectra’s work is worth paying attention to.

Spectra is part of the alt-right, and while his electronic work doesn’t quite fall under the fashwave rubric, many of his songs have allusions to fashwave and alt-right motifs, with “Bavaria 51,” “Priests of Kek, Arise!“, and “Exon Marks the Spot” being prominent examples. Other electronic songs of his such as “Sneak and Destroy,” “Lovemakin’ in Sacred Gardens,” and “The Pitchmen and the Pendulum” draw on a wider variety of influences similar to standard synthwave.

Rather uniquely among synthwave musicians (at least from my perspective: I’ve only been acquainted with the genre for three months), Spectra’s work seems to draw on nineties influences as well as the typical eighties ones. Songs such as “Bavaria 51” and “Loki’s Lab” are reminiscent of the “rocktronic” songs of Frank Klepacki, best known as the in-house composer for the Command & Conquer games, a feeling that is augmented by Spectra’s sampling of clips from old sci-fi and horror movies in some songs. “Druid Droids of Mag Mell” sounds influenced by Police drummer Stewart Copeland’s soundtracks for the original Spyro the Dragon games, while “Wonderlandia” weirdly resembles the MOD-formatted synth songs in Star Control II.

As I mentioned already, Spectra’s non-electronic work is hit-or-miss, particularly his older songs. Piano-driven pieces like “Hopewilts” aren’t particularly compelling, and while some might appreciate his chiptune cover of “Horst Wessel Lied,” 8-bit Nintendo music isn’t my cup of tea. Additionally, his older uploads have a more unfinished feel to them, with his most recent compositions, such as “Blood and Ablution” and “Mímir’s Music Box,” being some of his best.

At the end of the day, while some of his compositions would be better shelved, Exon Spectra’s discography is interesting, compelling and worth your time. He hasn’t yet released a formal album on Bandcamp or another site, so I’ll be looking forward to when he does.

Click here to visit Exon Spectra on SoundCloud.

Read Next: Six Songs of Me

  • Karl Ushanka

    Thanks for the review. They have quite a few songs – good variety.

  • Mark Portman

    . .