Those racist trolls with “Pepe the Frog” avatars are probably listening to a dull pastiche of ’80s movie and video game soundtracks while they’re harassing women and people of color.
Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists once listened to black metal and narrow strains of hardcore punk, but the so-called “alt-right” movement that celebrates Donald Trump prefer a newer, synthesizer-based genre called “fashwave,” reported Buzzfeed.
Think of the soundtracks to “Drive” and “Stranger Things,” remove the surprising or interesting elements, and you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of what these songs sound like.
Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, described the genre as “the spirit of the childhoods of millennials” and “the sound of … our revolution.”
“(Fashwave) fits perfectly with the ironic vibes of the movement,” Anglin told the website by email. “It is hard to think of something less hip in current year than punk or hardcore music.”
The genre’s name mashes “fascist” onto the front of “synthwave,” which revives the retro-futurism of synthesizer-based music from the 1980s, which soundtracked movies and TV shows like “Blade Runner,” “Terminator” and “Knight Rider.”
The artists and their songs knowingly invoke Nazi themes, and eschews “African rhythms” and the “degenerate” elements of EDM, or electronic dance music.
“Fashwave, then, is ambient, not dancey,” wrote Buzzfeed’s Reggie Ugwu. “It’s largely lyric-free, which helps in dodging censors on social media, and cherry-picks sonic ideas from decades of implicitly white male fantasies in popular culture: the electric dreamscapes of film composers John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream, the technology worship of the German band Kraftwerk, the 8-bit adrenaline rush of chiptune arcade game music, and the Drive soundtrack’s black-light romance.”
AV Club’s Clayton Purdom points out that fashwave videos on YouTube incorporate theme associated with “vaporwave,” a chilled-out variant of EDM that’s influenced by New Age music.
“It’s bad, anonymous stuff—listen to John Carpenter or literally anything else instead—frequently paired with vaporwave artwork: neon gradients, Japanese symbols, Tron-style grids, all newly radicalized to include President-Elect Donald Trump,” wrote AV Club’s Clayton Purdom. “This is a reframing, or maybe de-framing, of the vaporwave aesthetic. It embraced the images and tones of dated commercial music with an element of critique mixed with nostalgia, but these tracks offer neither critique nor nostalgia in favor of nihilism.”
Synth-based groups like Nitzer Ebb, Laibach, DAE and Front 242, which were categorized as industrial or “body movement music,” toyed with fascist themes in the 1980s and energized neo-Nazi fans with the blunt force of hardcore punk.
Fashwave, on the other hand, is the perfect soundtrack for a quiet night at home sharing dank memes or meticulously organizing porn files.