Watch: Weirdness from the Dawn of the Synthesizer Age

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E. Little
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Exploring the wild world of YouTube channel Are Sounds Electrik? 


It’s been about 50 years since the synthesizer began easing its way into the mainstream, and man were those early years filled with weirdness. As musicians were mastering these wholly new instruments, TV shows were highlighting the shock-of-the-new artists, devices and sounds. 

A half a century later, the righteous seeker Anthony McGuinness at YouTube channel Are Sounds Electrik? has been doing the Lord’s work by dredging up and highlighting early synth jams and TV performances. It’s a world to get lost in. 

Are Sounds Electrik? was born in 2010 on YouTube, and across the following decade McGuinness uncovered, highlighted and created montage videos of early synth-centered tracks. 

“The major consideration for Are Sounds Electrik? is that the music has to come first, the imagery is always second,” McGuinness said in a 2020 interview. “Matching up the two is the hardest part because there has to be some sympathy between them. I’m a bit of an internet addict so I’m always coming across footage that I think will work with a particular track and it’s a labour of love editing it all together.”

The channel’s first viral video was McGuinness’s clip for Italo-disco group Charlie’s 1983 track Spacer Woman. He mixed the music with images from the animation classic Fantastic Planet, in the process resurrecting the 12-inch for new generations.

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Often the videos that McGuinness creates edit essential music with scenes of Top of the Pops dancers grooving in unison. For the Marsheaux song Dream of a Disco, the blend creates four minutes of buoyant celebration.  

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In 2020, Are Friends Electrik? got taken down from YouTube for a copyright violation, but luckily McGuinness had already created a shadow channel, and immediately started rebuilding. When he did, he offered a note of appreciation: “Thanks everyone for safely relocating here. If you can’t find your favourite ASE video on here don’t worry. All my old videos will be reuploaded at some point in between newer uploads just so I don’t bore everyone with older stuff on mass.” 

Here’s a fantastic archival video he uploaded of French duo Elli & Jacno a few weeks ago. Taken from 1980, it captures a moment when synth musicians realized they didn’t need anything but an ARP Pro/DGX and a singer to build a pop song. 

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“These days we expect technology to bring more convenience into our lives, which is nice, but in the 80s the idea of the future was EXCITING,” notes one commenter beneath the killer Topo & Roby 12-inch Under the Ice. This future is precisely captured in this video, a fan-favorite that vanished in 2020 with the Are Sounds Electrik? takedown. The return was cause for celebration:  “i was so depressed because this was deleted,” wrote another commenter. “Now i am very happy because i will dance again with my son. He loves to imitate the robot moves…

The Acid Moody Dance-Off video features a McGuinness-edited montage of beautiful people dancing to an extended mix featuring German synth group Boytronic’s 1983 track “The Working Model.” Like the rest of McGuinness’s singular channel, it’s a dose of joy.

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