Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein – Stranger Things Vol. 1 – Review

 

Even though it’s only been out for just over a month, it is hard to imagine life without Stranger Things. The Netflix exclusive series has become a cult hit almost overnight, garnering thousands of fans worldwide. Helmed by the Duffer Brothers, the eight part series follows a group of kids who are trying to find their friend who goes missing. We’ll refrain from spoilers in case you haven’t seen it, but it’s certainly one of this year’s stand out TV series. A mixture of E.T and The Goonies, with a dash of Twin Peaks, Stranger Things is the perfect homage to the 80s.

But it’s not just the series itself that has gained a lot of attention, the soundtrack has been praised by fans and critics alike as well. Tracks like Joy Division’s Atmosphere and New Order’s Elegia are peppered throughout the series, with also a brief appearance from Toto’s Africa. But it’s the series’ original score that everyone is losing their minds over. Curated by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of Austin based band S U R V I V E, Netflix and Lakeshore Records have decided to release the series’ score to the general public. Split into two volumes, Vol. 2 is out the 19th August, fans of the show can now get their sci-fi appetites once again satisfied with Vol. 1. But how does the soundtrack fare on its own merit?

(Disclaimer: the tracks on the album are named after the respective points in which they occur in the series, so potential spoilers lay ahead)

Beginning on the already iconic Stranger Things theme, this intergalactic synth gem still sounds as enchanting as it did the first time we all heard it. A tense and mystifying piece on cinematic scale, Dixon and Stein have created something that will become a quintessential part of pop culture for years to come.

Other highlights of Vol. 1 include Kids, Eleven, Biking To School and She’ll Kill You. Doused in a multitude of synths (yes the word synth is going to be said a lot in this article…), Kids grabs your imagination and throws you straight into the world of Stranger Things. Full of euphoric moments and colour, this track alone proves why everyone was excited to hear this soundtrack in full. Eleven is incredibly isolating, and yet also strangely idyllic. The melodies are kept very simple but they form something really breathtaking. Then the criminally short Biking To School encaptures what it feels like to be a kid again. The layered synths breathe adventure and spontaneity.

She’ll Kill You, for those who’ve watched the series, will instantly place you in the scene in which this track makes its debut. It’s an anthemic piece that swells and swells into this grandiose epic, before it depreciates into this melancholy mixture of warbling synths.

Volume 1 also sees tracks on the more ambient scale of electronic music. This Isn’t You would feel right at home on a Brian Eno Ambient project, whilst Castle Byers features this atmospheric synth that builds and builds into something really powerful. You Can Talk To Me is a short but dark piano led score that really captures the sometimes bleak moments of Stranger Things.

The dark tracks don’t stop here, there are more than a handful pieces of music on this soundtrack that hold onto the darkness of the show. The Upside Down is unnerving, with its off-kilter melodies that really instil the horror that reigns down on the small town of Hawkins. Photos In The Woods is similar, with some moments making it a difficult listen. But that’s what is so great, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein have got the tone of these tracks down to a T. The most chilling track is Lights Out. An intimidating and claustrophobic listen, Lights Out stabs at you with eardrum piercing synthesisers.

Fans of Boards Of Canada will certainly find something to like here, as some of the tracks could have been easily ripped out of a project from the illustrious Scottish electronic duo. Lamps could be mistaken for a song off Geogaddi, with the more accessible Hawkins seeming like a cut off their 2013 album Tomorrow’s Harvest.

More tracks worth mentioning off the impressively long track-listing are A Kiss, Papa and No Autopsy. A Kiss bottles the feeling of teenagers falling in love, with luscious and gentle synths that envelope you in everlasting love. The sombre Papa really pulls heavy emotionally, with these elongated notes that carry so much weight and sadness. Finally No Autopsy is this space-age expression that is filled with subtlety and intrigue.

Vol. 1 is one of those soundtracks that can stand completely on its own, much like Cliff Martinez’s score for Drive. At 36 tracks long, there’s so much on here for fans to digest and lose themselves in. It’ll fully immerse listeners into the world of Stranger Things. So as fans eagerly await the inevitable announcement of season 2, they can live out their own Stranger Things adventures with this sinister, exquisite and gorgeous soundtrack. Grab your mates and become the next Mike, Eleven, Dustin, Will and Lucas, until you realise you’re 20 and you’ve got to go back to university in a couple of weeks…

8.5/10

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