S U R V I V E, RR7349 (Relapse Records, 2016)

By now, most of us have heard, or at least read about, the score to the acclaimed Netflix series, Stranger Things. Tipping their hat to the film scores created by such artists as Tangerine Dream and Vangelis, composers Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon created atmospheric pieces of music that complemented the sci-fi show's '80s-indebted storyline. Stein and Dixon are also members of S U R V I V E, an experimental synth quartet founded in 2008. With the Stranger Things score garnering nearly as much praise as the series it was written for, the stage is set for S U R V I V E to have their moment in the spotlight.

If you fell head over heels for the Stranger Things soundtrack, there's a lot to love on RR7349, S U R V I V E's soon-to-be-released sophomore album. Just by the nature of the material being instrumental and largely synth-driven, the album has a "soundtrack-y" feel. Tracks like "Other" and "Low Fog" are all mood and space. Then you have things like "Sorceror" (I see what they did there), which take their time to develop, building with ethereal synthlines and moody sound effects before climaxing with sparse yet hard-hitting drum parts.

"Wardenclyffe" is one of the highlights on RR7349. With its rolling keyboard melody and thumping bassline, it's the song I would play for someone that hasn't heard S U R V I V E yet. Along with "Copter," it's the most synthwave-friendly stuff on the new album.

Photo: Alex Kacha

RR7349 is being released by Relapse Records, an indie powerhouse that built its reputation in the heavy metal world via seminal albums by Mastodon, Incantation, and Pig Destroyer, to name a few bands, but don't accuse the label of jumping the synth soundtrack bandwagon. After all, we're talking about a company who has been releasing records that fall into the same stylistic wheelhouse as S U R V I V E (Zombi, Goblin Rebirth) for years now. Let's also be glad the Texas outfit chose to align itself with a label that has the resources to get its music across to a wide audience, because it definitely deserves to.

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