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‘Stranger Things 2’ Composers Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein on Show’s Supernatural Sounds

The sounds of Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein have grown scarier as the show that they score has grown stranger.

Since composing the score for the first season of “Stranger Things,” Dixon and Stein have toured with their synth band Survive (which includes two additional members) across the U.S. and Europe, including stops at festivals ranging from Coachella to Primavera Sound. Survive also released its second studio album, “RR7349,” in September 2016. Now that “Stranger Things 2” has been released, the Emmy-winning, Grammy-nominated duo discusses with Variety how they will keep the experimental sounds coming for a season of spooks.

Dixon says they ended up making so many “supernatural” and “demonic” sounds, that they came up with the idea to release a Halloween album. As a result, the deluxe edition of the “Stranger Things 2” original score soundtrack includes 15 additional songs billed as a bonus album of “Halloween sounds.”

“We incorporated some old and new techniques. We progressed the music to have more drive and action,” Stein says. “We incorporated more traditional horror instruments, like the waterphone, and blended them into electronic sounds.”

The concept of “uncanny valley” seeps into much of their songwriting for the show, Dixon says. “It references robots and AI,” he explains. “There’s a point when something looks so real and sounds so real, that it’s almost convincing, but there’s something fundamentally not right about it and you can’t quite tell what it is. It’s not human, but it’s so close to being human that it scares you. Sounds that are almost human, or kind of like voices or a baby crying or an animal, but a bit weirder … those end up making some of the scariest songs.”

Dixon recalls being introduced to many of the dark sounds that he dabbles in through ’90s hip hop music. “A lot of the rap that I like samples older songs that gravitate toward darker, sadder-sounding songs,” he says. Stein is a huge fan of John Carpenter and says that he admires “how Carpenter uses dissonance and makes it kind of catchy.”

Below, the musicians pick the tunes for their ideal Halloween playlist.

Clara Rockmore — “Nocturne in C Minor”

“This piece was originally composed by Chopin. Clara Rockmore, one of the first people to learn how to play the theremin. It sounds vocal, but it’s an electronic instrument.”

Skatt Bros. — “Walk the Night”

“A creeper jam for sure.”

Steve Moore – “The Henge / Ascension”

“Halfway between totally spooky and danceable.”

69 Boyz — “Pass the Pussy”

“It samples John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ theme. It’s just a great song.”

Survive

“That’s a pretty good Halloween one.”

Dixon and Stein will perform the music of “Stranger Things” live at the Ace Hotel Theatre in Los Angeles on Nov. 8. They will exclusively play music from the show (not the music of Survive), but not in the order one might expect. They say they will spice up the show with some improv and visuals, too.

The “Stranger Things 2” soundtrack deluxe edition, which includes the Halloween bonus album, is available now on Apple Music. Below, view the tour schedule for Dixon and Stein’s live performances of the music of “Stranger Things.”

Nov. 3 – Toronto Unsound, Toronto, CAN
Nov. 8 – The Ace Hotel Theatre, Los Angeles, USA
April 3, 2018 – Barts, Barcelona, SP
April 5, 2018 – BRDCST Festival, Brussels, BE
April 6, 2018 – Rewire Festival, The Hague, NL
April 7, 2018 – Barbican, London, UK

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