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Marcus Ezra: New Retro: The Future Sound of the Past


Despite the ongoing so-called democratization of electronic music, I tend to believe that every generation, be it that of the by-gone era or that of today, both had their contemporary and underground music scenes.  In the same way we today have the contemporary mass-market radio sound of EDM/mainstream house, so do we have their underground counterparts; in the various  forms of Deep House, Techno, Nu-Disco & Drum and Bass to name a few.

This is also true of the electronic sounds of the 70s and 80s. With the emergence of Synthesizers like the Moog, ARP 2600 and Prophet5, synthesizer-based music became more prolific not only in the mainstream charts toppers but also became the de-facto sound of what was to become the essence of 80s pop culture that continued to influence music through the 90s till date. The sound of the synthesizer became responsible for the emergence of music genres such as New Wave, synth-pop, dreamwave.  It also featured heavily in film music of that era.

Alphaville, the mainstream German synth group popular for their 1984 hit “Big in Japan”

Concurrently more underground instrumental electronic-based music also shared in popularity as synth music based acts such as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Shulze, Jan Hammer and Keith Emerson also began to emerge.

Jan Hammer’s Crocketts Theme off the Cult-80s Tv series ” Miami Vice’

The virtuoso synth player Klaus Shulze, one of my favorite composers of ambient soundscapes music (dreamwave)

I recall tuning into one of those Saturday night soul radio shows that used to air on local FM radio and always feeling a sense of nostalgia..or waking up to The Car’s Drive playing on the all night long show. There was something indescribable about the sound. It sounded old, timeless.  As though it belonged to another era, which it did and yet I felt strangely connected to it in some way. There’s a sense of ‘specialness’ that came from it: ‘good music’ most would say, a musical escape I’d call it. .

The recent emergence of the new retro movement aims to do just that. An effort is being made by some modern electronic music artists to reproduce the eighties sound to a certain degree and they have created a stunning new genre of music all together.

Kavinsky gained fame with his ‘Out Run Electro’ style after featuring heavily in the 2011 Movie ‘Drive’ 

Dynatron’s Excellerator

Lazer Hawk’s Star Hustler

The 2012 track from ‘Electric Youth’ a retro inspired Band from Toronto, Canada.

The specific name of this genre is still relatively sketchy though all kinds of names have been thrown around such as New Retro, Dreamwave, OutRun Electro and ofcourse the already established Synth-Pop. Artists and Bands such as Kavinsky (off movie, Drive fame), Lazerhawk, Dynatron, Mitch Murder, Trevor Something, Electric Youth, Com Truise, Blastromen and Lifelike to name a few have come to light as the vanguard of this new revival genre. 

A Record Label worth noting is German Retro outfit :Dominance Electricity. A Label at the fore-front of keeping the *80’s eletrofunk/breakdance sound still alive and kicking.


 1.       Do your research. Don’t try and get into production just cause your friend brought over the latest copy of FLStudio. Find out what you’re in for. Even with the best software money can buy, creating good music is and will always be DIFFICULT. Make sure you’re in for the long haul or else you’ll be hauling ass.

2.       Music Knowledge. Contrary to popular belief, the computer doesn’t actually write the music. You do. A bit of music knowledge (Scales/Chords) will go a long way in helping us from passing out from unbearable dissonance.

3.       Gear. At least acquire a decent pair of studio monitors and an audio interface. How the audio signal translates from your DAW to your ears is undoubtedly very important. I don’t care what people say, Analog hardware will always be better than software. Software is a decent enough alternative if you of course can’t afford a $3000 Moog Voyager or Access Virus.

4.       Sounds. Construct your track choosing your sounds carefully and sparingly keeping in mind that those 10 big, phat, lush synth sounds won’t exactly sound as good layered once they’re all running the master into the RED. Less is more – You only have one frequency spectrum to work with.

5.       Samples. Its OK to use samples. As long as you use them sparingly. Samples can be a good way of giving a track a musical ‘bed’ to start with and can also be an inspiring basis to write ideas on. Just as long as you don’t do a Will.I.Steal…which you’d probably be doing.

6.       Effects. Learn how to use your compressor and EQ and for the sake of our ears, DON’T use them at all if you don’t know what you’re doing. Start with subtle compression and subtractive EQ instead of boosting.

7.       Vocals. No matter how cute the girl next door is, the fact of the matter is that – SHE CANT SING. No amount of pitch correction will help her. Find another way to get laid and get a proper vocalist.

8.       Programming. Programming of the melodies in your sequencer with the use of the mouse for hours? but you just cannot get the hold of the right sequence that could suit your project? Grab a hold of a midi keyboard. A more intuitive approach is by playing the melody on a MIDI-keyboard (and recording the result), can enhance your creativity even if you’re no Jordan Rudess.

9.       Creative Effects. Don’t just go preset hunting. A little bit of chorus/delay/flanger will go a long way in changing the character an already existing sound making it more interesting.

10.    Instruments. Don’t be a VST whore (like me) It is a lot more useful to have only a few plug-ins that you know well, than to have a huge list of VSTs that you cannot use to full extent.

 11.    Copy Cating. Don’t try too hard to sound like Mat Zo. Just because you don’t, it doesn’t mean your sound is bad, it’s just different.

12.    Too Early. You started producing, recorded a tune of your own and you are proud of it – a great achievement. It is one of your first productions, yet you already feel very confident about the quality of your work. Your friends and family have listened to the track and told you that you did very well too. Now you might possibly be tempted to send a demo of your early productions to your favorite label, but you should always remember: the first impression counts, as it may determine how people are going to judge you and your future productions. So criticize yourself and set your goals high.

13.    Breaks. Take regular breaks every 15 to 20 minutes to avoid brain-fry and cloth-ears, especially when mixing. This will save your ears, give you more perspective and boost your output.

14.    Perseverance and determination are attributes that the aspiring producer has to show. Making your own music is easier than ever thanks to modern computer software, yet the beginning may be difficult and decent results may not come over night. I guess the question you should be asking yourself isn’t ‘what do I have to do?’ but rather ‘what am I willing to give up?’ Pain and Practice, Sacrifice and Time.



The Life at 175 BPM Ep

The Life at 175 BPM Ep is a musical journey that stems from my fascination with the more melodic & harmonically driven styles of electronic music. A fusion of driving beats, dreamy melodies & harmonies make up the basis of this Ep showcasing that drum and bass positions itself as one of the few still original, creative and enduring genres. 


Track 1 - Thinking - Written and Produced by Marcus Ezra
Track 2 - Sepia Tones - Written and Produced by Marcus Ezra featuring Jay Patel on electric guitar, co-engineered by Jeff Ndungu
Track 3 - 6 Pm - Written and Produced by Marcus Ezra

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