You probably already know what you are dealing with here, as it is highly likely that most people who find their way to S U R V I V E’s debut LP, RR7349, will have done so through the excruciatingly awesome Netflix show Stranger Things. I believe I speak for all right-thinking children of the 1980s when I say that my pleasure in watching Stranger Things was painfully acute; almost erotic in its intensity. If you have spent countless hours, as I have, wandering through the haunted side streets and cursed houses of towns like Castle Rock or Derry, Maine (via the work of Stephen King), watching Stranger Things will feel like coming home. If late ’70s/early ’80s Stephen Spielberg owns a special place in your heart (particularly, Poltergeist), than Stranger Things will share that spot. Do you dig both the films and the music of John Carpenter? You are in luck. Do you own more than one Tangerine Dream LP? If so, then RR7349 by S U R V I V E will do you just fine.
The listener can separate S U R V I V E’s music from Stranger Things; after all, RR7349 is not a soundtrack. With this in mind, the comparisons run deeper than the simple fact that S U R V I V E did the music for Stranger Things. Both the band and the show mine a special vein of ’80s nostalgia. Normally, nostalgia is synonymous with a lack of imagination, but that is not the case here. Rather, there is sincerity and depth here that saves it from being a semi-ironic nostalgia exercise. I will concede that I may be particularly susceptible to the specific brand of nostalgia that Stranger Things and S U R V I V E traffic in, but both are of a much higher quality than simple nostalgia acts typically are.
The tracks on RR7349 build in intensity, moving forward into each track’s synth-laden interiors. Opening track “A.H.B.” creates lovely open pockets of space where the synthesizers can breathe and resonate. This is fairly atypical, actually, as RR7349 often feels rather claustrophobic, giving the listener a sense of being propelled through a massive, cyberpunkish metropolis ala Blade Runner. The open, less dense patches that each track contains give much needed room to tracks that might otherwise feel cluttered. S U R V I V E manages to do quite a lot with what can be a rather restrictive ‘synth only’ template. On tracks like “Wardenclyffe”, crackling/hissing ambiance is balanced with big, soaring melodies that counter one another perfectly. None of these tracks is wildly original, nor do they ever stray outside of their chosen genre, but they nail their sound pretty perfectly and that is nothing to sniff at.
If you have seen any of Stranger Things, or even just the opening titles, you should already know if you like RR7349. The listener gets exactly what he or she anticipates with this one, nothing more and nothing less. I happen to love this stuff. The retro-futuristic vibe that S U R V I V E extols hits me pretty hard. It is difficult to say if older and/or younger listeners will have the same reaction; this is a question that Stranger Things will also need to grapple with.
In Don DeLillo devastating, brain-busting masterpiece White Noise, the loquacious Murray opines, “I don´t trust anybody´s nostalgia but my own. Nostalgia is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It´s a settling of grievances between the present and the past. The more powerful the nostalgia, the closer you come to violence”. Such sentiments should be kept in mind what reveling in the clearly nostalgic pleasures of bands like S U R V I V E. The perils of nostalgic resentment notwithstanding, many listeners will find the foggy atmospheres and neon-lit cityscapes of RR7349 irresistible.