As well as being praised for paying homage to a range of ’80s influences, Season One of Stranger Things was also acclaimed for its soundtrack.
Any Netflix aficionado knows the feeling. When you first start bingeing a show you always begin by watching the whole opening theme. After a couple of episodes it starts to get annoying and by the end of Season One, you usually skip it.
The theme song for Orange is the New Black is rarely played in full, but we can all agree that there is no need to skip the Stranger Things opening, which sets the mood of the show perfectly with its pulsating synth sounds.
It isn’t just the opening that is cool, though. Throughout the series, music is used in very precise and thematic ways to reflect what is happening on the screen.
Take for example this scene, in which Eleven saves Mike from the “mouth breathers”:
As Mike approaches the cliff’s edge deep synth notes that resemble heartbeats gradually increase in speed. At the same time, atonal swirlings build to a crescendo that peaks just as he prepares to jump.
At the moment Mike jumps, the music dramatically cuts out so that he falls in silence and we feel “out of breath”. Then when Eleven triumphantly enters, she is accompanied by a banging beat and heroic, victorious music. It’s a great example of how to properly score a scene.
The masterminds behind the Stranger Things soundtrack are Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of S U R V I V E, an Austin-based synthesiser quartet that produces experimental ambient and minimal music.
Recently, Dixon and Stein told The Vinyl Factory that they are currently working on the music for Season Two of Stranger Things and that it would be “darker and weirder”. This is presumably because we will be seeing more of the Upside Down, a spooky parallel universe that exists in Hawkins, where the show is set.
Speaking with Spotify, Dixon and Stein said that they had initially tried a more “traditional” song for the Season One Upside Down theme but that it had felt “off”. Instead, they ended up going with a more brooding track that’s punctuated by aggressively struck notes. As the Demogorgon enters, the composers used microtonal notes (i.e. notes between notes) for effect. The Demogorgon may be dead, but in Season Two we definitely expect to hear more music in the same vein as this.
When it comes to the production of their music, Dixon and Stein benefit from a deep knowledge of analogue synthesisers such as the Prophet 6 and ARP 2600. Thanks to these instruments, the duo is able to come up with sounds that perfectly match the nostalgia-soaked hit show.
We’ll have to wait until October 31 to find out what they have come up with for Season Two of Stranger Things.
In the meantime, you can blast the soundtrack on Spotify and revisit Hawkins and of course, the Upside Down.