To be quite frank, I didn’t knew Spacesynth existed until a couple of weeks ago. During the holiday season I was walking my pug while listening to David Hasselhoff’s True Survivor after which Spotify’s song radio played a track by Mitch Murder, the guy who produced True Survivor. Because of the great retro 80s cover art I looked him up on last.fm and and saw that he was tagged with Synthwave, another genre I didn’t knew then (and that will be featured in a subsequent entry of this series). Through this, I somehow stumbled over today’s topic, the Spacesynth sub-subgenre. Spacesynth is a fusion between Space Disco and Italo Disco, which are both subgenres of Euro Disco. Most tracks are instrumental, and according to the last.fm description they often feature “epic battle scene style themes, driving basslines and catchy synthesizer riffs”.
The subgenre originated with the work of the Dutch producer duo Erik Van Vliet and Michael Van Der Kuy and their Laserdance project, as well as the Italians Anfrando Maiola and the late Stefano Cundari who together formed Koto. In 1986 they released Visitors, which sold over 200’000 units and became one of the best-selling Italo Disco songs ever.
The hyper-catchy follow up Jabdah was also a successful track, charting within the top 30 in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
Cundari had another well-known Italo Disco project, Hypnosis, which started out in the early 80s by breaking into the charts with cover versions of synthesizer hits like Jean-Michel Jarre’s Oxygene and Vangeli’s Pulstar. In 1987 Hypnosis released Droid, a track that was influenced by Donna Summer’s mega-hit I Feel love. It was less successful than the previous singles, but nonetheless a very noteworthy Spacesynth track. Three years later Cundari died from a rare cancer disease.
Laserdance released their debut album Future Generation in 1987, which sold approximately 150’000 units. Here’s a track from the album:
In the same year Van Der Kuy started an additional Spacesynth project called Proxyon. The first track was Space Hopper but my favorite Proxyon track, maybe even my favorite Spacesynth track is Space Fly (Magic Fly). It is a cover version of Space’s Space Disco classic Magic Fly from 1977.
While the subgenre was most popular in the 80s to the early 90s, it never went fully away and made somewhat of a comeback in the last decade, a comeback that hasn’t yet subsided. Former demoscene musician Stamen / ST Arts started his Everdune spacesynth project in 2007. Here is Neuromancer, a track from the 2014 album Spaceventure:
In this decade Spacesynth is somewhat intersecting with Synthwave, an artist who debuted in 2012 and is associated with both those genres is Dynatron, here is one of his tracks, Pulse Power:
As you can easily see, a primary strength the genre is the visual appeal of its cover art.
The Podsafe Music Podcast did a lovely episode on Spacesynth, featuring only tracks that are either public domain or creative commons.
That’s it for the first style report. Next time we look at space disco as a variant of deep house (that is not the original space disco of the late 70s and early 80s).