‘Stranger Things’ composers survive

Critical Review

By Evan Henry
Music Editor

Photo courtesy of S U R V I V E

Photo courtesy of S U R V I V E

 

With the Netflix original series “Stranger Things” shocking audiences almost overnight, it’s no wonder Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s esoteric interpretation of electronic music goes far beyond the soundtrack of the smash hit.

Long before the pair composed the soundtrack, they, along with Holodeck Records CEO Adam Jones and musician Mark Donica, formed S U R V I V E, an all-analog synth quartet reminiscent of ’70s experimentalists Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, which has since exploded onto the mainstream.

Now, Dixon and Stein are topping the Billboard charts. Their success couldn’t have paired better with their first collective album since 2014, “RR7349,” the sophomore fulllength was released Sept. 30, according to the record label’s website.

From the moment the hiss of the opening track, “A.H.B.” strikes your stereo, you’re compelled to press your ears against the speakers. These former-Dallasites’ tunes cut the senses like knives while the drums wretch and the synths soar.

It is without a doubt the sound they’ve been polishing since their inception in 2009.

Almost immediately, you are throttled into a fever dream. Glassy leads topped with numbing bass follow one another to a T. Only halfway through the sixth track “Sorcerer” do things begin to make sense again.

At this point you somehow dive deeper into the forbidden realms of the 1976 psychological thriller “The Keep,” a personal favorite of Dixon’s. Those foreign to the land must stray away from the world that is seemingly out to get them for disturbing the peace.

“RR7349” plays out like a soundtrack to this film and perhaps many others droning along in the listener’s mind.

Conjuring the feeling of angels and demons, the quartet touch ends of a spectrum that, to the average listener, results in a sound that goes far beyond the norm.

Unlike the accessible sounds in “Stranger Things,” “RR7349” is not for the faint of heart. Tracks like “Copter” and “Wardenclyffe” challenge the listener with revolving sonic timbres. Perhaps S U R V I V E has reached boss level in the realm of the vintage synthesizer scene – a scene once rejected by the mainstream, but is now steadily moving its way up the ladder.

The nine tracks on the album were recorded at the artists’ homes using Korgs, Moogs, Arps and Sequentials of decades past. Every note manages to transcend the soul before forcing its decent deeper into consciousness.

The album creates an addictive cycle with repeats and swells. Sounding so new with something so old couldn’t be much better than this.

“RR7349” is the perfect blend of modern ambient, new age, horror scores and slices of nostalgia. Anything less from the outfit wouldn’t do them justice.

With the release of this album, S U R V I V E is expected to perform feats never thought possible. It’s been a long time coming from playing to almost no one in town to nearly packing venues in their current location of Austin.

The landscape is already changing, as the release show is already sold out and dates along the Pacific Northwest have been sold out since their announcements in July. And this is only the beginning, as the quartet is already working on a new album.

Let the album sink in and speak for itself. S U R V I V E will perform live Dec. 31 at It’ll Do Club in Dallas.

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