Austin, Texas may be the hotbed of the current synth wave movement in the US, and because of the runaway success of Netflix’s Stranger Things, the movement may have crowned a face. Like it or not, that show has rocketed the band to national attention and S U R V I V E have become the poster boys of synth. The release of their second full-length album RR7349 may cement their place at the top. Using the catalog number as a title is a stroke of genius, it is enigmatic and utilitarian with just the right amount of futuristic flair, and it lets the music speak for itself.
From the opening thunderclap of “A.H.B.” It is evident that the band is more interested in crafting songs this time around, eschewing the reliance on the ambience of their previous releases. This song feels like it would have fit perfectly on the Drive soundtrack. It immediately conjures images of driving at night, prowling the streets, propelled by the thumping bass line and shifting soundscape.
The next song, “Other,” exudes menace, underlined by a reverberant metal clap. High pitched warbles ride on top while a barely audible whisper lies just underneath. “Dirt” feels more futuristic, like an apocalyptic landscape. Laser blasts punctuate a minor key drone, building to a frantic breakdown that emerges with Goblin-like keyboards. “High Rise” is a robotic drive periodically interrupted by baud interference. Images of dial-up tech thrillers race through the listeners head.
“Wardenclyffe” is a dark descent into oblivion. Pitch shifted choral blasts build over a deep, bleating bassline signaling the rapid approach of darkness. “Sorcerer” is bleak, there is no hope except the brief choral lines that break through the foreboding. “Low Fog” is the only purely ambient track on the album, and it feels more like the band’s older material. There is no pounding bass, just a drone, and buzz that rises and falls and sounds like it is piped in from some other dimension.
“Copter” starts with a throbbing bassline and never lets up. This track is the band at their most Carpenter-esque, and it aches to be a part of a stylish action movie bathed in blue light and reflective surfaces. The final track “Cutthroat” takes a simple repetitious synth line and keeps building until it feels triumphant. It is a perfect ending, feeling like you have gone through Hell and come out on top. Imagine an action hero walking in slow motion toward the camera.
At only nine songs and a little under an hour the album is over too quickly, leaving you wanting more. S U R V I V E’s RR7349 will sit nicely on your record shelf between Goblin and Tangerine Dream, having earned its place among the masters.