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Music Review…Death Waltz Recording Co.’s ‘Summer of 84′ by Le Matos

For those of you new to modern electronic film scores, allow us to introduce you to Le Matos. A synthwave duo from Montreal, their musical style blends pop, dance, and melancholic melodies. Inspired by famous soundtrack composers of the ’80s (John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, and Vangelis), Le Matos’ synth-heavy score for Summer of ’84 permeates throughout the film to transport audiences back to a timeless decade in cinema. They previously collaborated with RKSS on their Sundance breakout hit, Turbo Kid, and have acquired a massive following. In short, their music will change your life.

Summer of ’84 itself is a throwback thriller, and one that stands out from the pack even if all you can see are similarities to, you guessed it, Stranger Things. We’ll get this out of the way up front…The Duffer Brothers’ hit show is intentionally a copy of so many other productions before it. RKSS’ Summer of ’84, while set in the same era, is very much its own film. Earlier this year, we spoke with the filmmaking collective, RKSS (François Simard, and brother and sister Yoann-Karl Whissell and Anouk Whissell), about their film – click here to read our fun and lively interview.

What I personally love about Le Matos’ work is how it is able to be, in the best case and depending on how they underscore the narrative, both adventurous and hopeful. But when the plot takes a turn, as in this film, their music goes dark without missing a beat. Many cues in their sophomore effort are short – some just over one minute – but the duo compose some substantive tracks that really flesh out a scene and prolong whatever the plot asks of them.

Their work complements the visual and narrative tension well; at times it’s got a head nodding beat, other times it highlights the paranoia and tries to get under your skin. Turbo Kid had a fun vibe to match the over-the-top style that RKSS is known for, but this subdued effort from the Quebec-based duo is both restrained and mature.

Their music is always just a few steps away from the vibe in a workout video (which is a compliment), “outrun” is the appropriate term, and it really fits RKSS’ films. Le Matos’ work here has hints of Risky Business, and the DNA of the score is seemingly about exploration; in some ways it parallels the characters’ attempts to deal with and work through things they aren’t comfortable with – girls, socializing, absentee parents.

The foursome depicted below are adolescent outcasts, and one of these friends is convinced that his neighbor, a police officer, is a serial killer. No one believes him, but he’s on a quest to crack the case wide open. The game, as they say, is afoot. They all end up playing detective but are in over their heads. Similarly, as far as the music, half of this score is outside Le Matos’ wheelhouse, but they have grown as a band because of it.

The album, from Death Waltz Recording Co. and Mondo, features artwork by Sam Turner, and the art looks period-specific; like a talented high school artist’s doodles on the back of a notebook. The packaging of this soundtrack picks up on the themes of RKSS’ film, especially the vinyl which is a gnarly mix of reds, grays and blacks in a very ’80s looking splatter pattern. It’s all pretty rad.

The original soundtrack has just a handful of callbacks to the style of Le Matos’ previous works – it’s great hearing cues like #14 ‘First Base’ which is reminiscent of Like Faith or Some Shit’ from Turbo Kid. There are some great ambient pieces while other tracks underscore loss and anguish before diving into horror-style scare mode.

Le Matos often gets compared to John Carpenter (as does anyone working with synths these days, let’s face it) but they truly lead the pack in the electronic landscape. They are ultimately unique because they don’t offer up retreads or tributes to artists of the past.

With Summer of ’84, Le Matos create a more sophisticated sound that has the level of talent associated with Carpenter’s original Halloween. But, herein, the talented duo charts their own path, both for the score and as a band; they stand among the likes of Martinez, Mansell, and Reznor & Ross, not sound-alikes. Just listen to their debut album, Join Us, to get a taste of what they are capable of, and you’ll know why they are so popular. Same with Turbo Kid, and Summer of ’84. In fact, all three of their albums deserve a spot on your shelf.

The score is pressed across 2XLPs – check out the tracklist below.

Side A

01. Summer of ‘84 (1:28)
02. Manhunt (1:33)
03. It’s A Conspiracy (1:20)
04. Mom, I’m 15 (1:20)
05. Ipswich Lanes (1:27)
06. Serial Killer on the News (1:24)
07. Blind Tipping (0:47)
08. Microfische (1:09)
09. Where’s Sammy (1:14)
10. Their Neighbor (0:41)
11. PB&J and the Missing Ginger (2:50)
12. Operation Mack Attack (1:30)
13. Mackey’s Trash (1:29)
14. First Base (2:25)
15. Bobby Cocker (1:17)
16. License To Drive (0:44)

Side B

17. Hardware Store (2:24)
18. Watching Mackey (0:52)
19. Nikki and Davey (2:43)
20. Mackey’s Freezie Pops (0:49)
21. Treehouse Drinking (1:32)
22. Hoffman’s House (2:01)
23. You Guys are Hooking Up (0:37)
24. Operation Manhunt (2:50)
25. Walkie Investigation (2:07)
26. Emergency Meeting (1:55)
27. Mackey’s Storage Unit (4:12)

Side C

28. Dusty’s Shirt (2:17)
29. Dave’s Apology (1:08)
30. Nikki’s Room (2:14)
31. Mackey’s Phone Call (3:39)
32. No Answer (4:30)
33. Stealing The Cam (1:32)
34. Mackey’s Basement (6:22)

Side D

35. Nikki’s Goodbye (2:36)
36. Nowhere Left for Him to Hide (1:07)
37. Twelve Fifteen (2:10)
38. Burial Ground (4:47)
39. Mackey’s Theme Extended (2:57)
40. End Of Summer (5:04)
41. Cold Summer Feat. Computer Magic (3:24)

Death Waltz Recording Co., proudly present the soundtrack to the film Summer of ’84, a killer 80’s-throwback of BMX, mullets and serial killers. Click here to order yourself a copy at the official Mondo site. And check out other Mondo products on their official page, or follow them on Twitter for all release updates.