My preference is to write in silence. As I get older I have too many focus issues to have on any sort of background noise. I used to be able to put in a television or stream movies and ignore them. Now they’re distraction. Periodically I will put on music, mostly to cancel out other background noise. Jazz, classical, an ambient electronic work best. There don’t have lyrics for my brain to latch on to. In the past week, however, I’ve discovered Sovietwave. I’m hooked.
Sovietwave is electronic music heavily influenced by 1980s movie soundtracks and old video games. It first surfaced during the early 2000s in former Soviet states, including Russia. The sound is lo-fi, melancholic, and dreamlike, which makes it ideal for when I’m writing. There’s virtually no bass, which works perfectly with my anxiety issues.
It’s deeply infused with nostalgia for the Soviet Union. That’s where the name comes from. This tends to get some Americans’ panties in a bunch, so please, take a deep breathe and spare a moment to try and understand. No one is longing for the days of oppression and bread lines. It’s more about the days when the Soviet states were world leaders in science and technology, and had an eye toward space exploration.
There’s a retro-futurism, a desire to return to that past-future that never came to fruition. Tracks are interspersed with melodies from old films and cartoons that are fondly remembered as high points of the culture. There are snippets of dialogue from educational films, and inspirational speeches by visionary leaders.
Longing for a Future That Never Happened
My work-in-progress is about a young woman living among the ruins of 1980s and 90s America. There are dead malls, crumbling remnants of Route 66, and long-abandoned factories in the background. She listens to stories about the glory of Reaganomics as she struggles to pay her rent in the gig economy. There’s an overwhelming sense that at some point things stopped moving forward, and began to fall apart.
Sovietwave is tugging at those same threads, from a different perspective. The sentiments are identical. It’s a way of wondering what we did wrong then, that landed us where we are now, and wishing that the past had worked out the way we were promised it would.