- Since the band first appeared in 2010, S U R V I V E have carried an air of '80s nostalgia that was usually more about the sound of their instruments than their songwriting. Yet it's turned out to be their defining characteristic. Sections of the Austin quartet's impressive discography sound closer to early Oneohtrix Point Never or Zombi's Steve Moore than, say, John Carpenter. The bevy of Korg, Roland and ARP machines used in their music, however, have earned them comparisons to Tangerine Dream, as have soundtrack appearances in '80s film homages like The Guest and Stranger Things. Now, the second S U R V I V E album, RR7349, leans harder into those influences than ever before, bridging the gaps between the iconic film scores, strange pop music and niche genres of that era.
What's most distinctive about RR7349 is how S U R V I V E treat their synths like guitars, their drum machines like a set of Ludwigs. The ambient kosmische elements of their 2012 debut album, MNQ026 (AKA S U R V I V E), are nearly gone, taken over by the rigid rockist mentality that has always been a part of the band. If these songs owe anything to Tangerine Dream, they share that debt with the dark sides of artists like Gary Numan and Depeche Mode. "A.H.B." opens the record with its instrumental synth pop, moving between snappy verses and sweeping choruses, while tracks like "Dirt" and "Sorcerer" offset predictable structures with the tension and broad scope of soundtrack music. That type of song is RR7349's best trick, somehow inverting and enhancing its source materials at the same time.
Midway through RR7349, "Wardenclyffe" cuts back and forth from cheeky synth pop to stratospheric synth vistas, revealing how much better S U R V I V E are with the latter approach. They finally concede to their strengths in the album's second half, indulging in the thick, spooky atmosphere of "Low Fog" and the immersive arc of standout track "Copter." Much like Boards Of Canada's Tomorrow's Harvest, those songs lovingly evoke George Romero's 1985 horror classic Day Of The Dead, which has as much to do with capturing specific moods as it does using vintage sounds. For S U R V I V E, those methods are inextricably linked. When that synergy is at its peak, it matters very little what else the music might sound like.
04. High Rise
07. Low Fog