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S U R V I V E, "RR7349"

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cover imageIt is difficult to acknowledge S U R V I V E’s new album without touching on the hype surrounding it.  Half of the Austin band, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, are responsible for the soundtrack to Stranger Things, which has received significant attention.  But the fact of the matter is that the band (also featuring Adam Jones of Troller and Mark Donica) has been composing synth heavy film score work for years now, and while they are completely deserving of the attention their work is now receiving, RR7349 would be just as amazing of a record without the hype surrounding their extracurricular activities.

Relapse/Holodeck

Since 2010 the quartet has been working on their analog synth soundscapes, albums that weave these vintage sounds into bleak and at time frightening moods.  Of course, parallels with John Carpenter’s soundtrack work are inevitable, and while I have no doubt he is an influence, their work is distinctly their own.  While they are intentionally using vintage gear, the production technique is distinctly contemporary.  Rather than trying to copy a sound from 30 years ago, they use that to create something fresh and modern.

Alongside the production, much also has to be said for the songwriting and composition.  Unlike entire genres that have been built upon a foundation of replicating 1980s neon aesthetics and damaged VHS tape visuals, composition is the focus, rather than repetitive hardware demos.  This is immediately evident on album opener "A.H.B."  What begins as a simple drum machine and bassline structure, propelled by an intentionally simplistic synth lead, soon becomes a constantly evolving and developing work, shifting layers and patterns rapidly but never losing consistency.  There are definite film score similarities to be heard here, but the work itself is too dynamic to be just a background piece.

While there is a lot of variation between songs on RR7349, the mood stays a consistent dark and sinister one.  The slow shuffle of "Dirt" is all big crashing drum machine and pulsating synth arpeggios, with complex melodies weaved throughout that become the focus by the end.  "High Rise" features not only a great bit of drum machine programming, but also a diverse bass sequencer driving it to a sound that could almost be vintage Front 242 at their most atmospheric.

The album is not all percolating keyboards and crunching drum machine, however.  The surging synth strings of "Other" cut through an intentionally uncomfortable amount of space, resulting in an atmospheric, slightly menacing piece of unsettling music.  "Low Fog" is a perfectly titled piece, with its opaque miasma of buzzing electronics and beat-less soundscape.  The mood is uncomfortable and gives the sense that something horrible is about to happen at any time, made all the more intense with its extremely slow fade out.

Closing on "Cutthroat," a complex, rhythmic mass of crashing rhythms and big, boisterous leads is also a brilliant stroke, ending the album with an appropriate culminating climax of all the elements that made it so great.  S U R V I V E may be current media darlings due to their other work, but RR7349 is a further refinement of the sound honed on their last self-titled full length.  It may have the mood in place, but there is simply too much going on for this album to be considered soundtrack music, because it would easily upstage any visual component it may be paired with.  It truly is an audio-only cinematic experience, and one that is gripping until the very last moments.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 02 October 2016 22:49  


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