Not an album you pop into your car stereo for a drive.
The Netflix Original Series “Stranger Things” was a surprise hit, and some might argue that its success was in part due to the eerie, minimalist soundtrack that steeped it in pure synthetic, electronic ‘80s goo. The show’s creepy nostalgic epicenter would have done the trick alone, but music by S U R V I V E helped pull the whole thing together and make it special. It’s no wonder the band dropped its newest effort RR7349 mere months after the show exploded.
RR7349 isn’t an album you pop into your car stereo for a drive. It’s not background music for house cleaning It’s meant to be digested, alone and in the dark. Otherwise, most of its nine songs would wash over you as nothing more than a hazy unease pouring out of the void just on the other side of consciousness. To say that the album doesn’t work isn’t quite accurate. But music listeners know that sometimes music isn’t meant to be just listened to; it’s meant to be experienced.
If you can find the time to immerse yourself into the album, you’re in for a real treat. Tracks like the opener, “A.H.B,” and “Dirt” are filled with oily soundscapes that could have been used in John Carpenter films. The electronics sizzle but burn slowly, never truly reaching a crescendo and never totally ignoring song structure. They simply sort of exist.
That’s S U R V I V E’s game. The album doesn’t really have “highlights,” but that’s not the point. Everything from the opening track to the closer, “Cutthroat,” acts as small pieces of a larger musical event. Considering the reaction to the “Stranger Things” soundtrack, and the fact that each episode has its own tone, it’s no wonder the album flows like a soundtrack without a film. Creating something like this takes a vision more concerned with the big picture than with individual parts.
Obviously, we live in a world where people take to the internet to sample bits and pieces of an album before purchasing. That strategy won’t work with RR7349. If you sit down with iTunes you’ll get nothing but a minute or so of crackling electronics. You’ll have no understanding of the work as a whole, and, more than likely—unless your interest rests purely in “Stranger Things”—you’ll pass over it without a second thought. That would be a mistake.
Accessible music is easy. It gives the people what they want: don’t-bore-us-get-to-the-chorus tunes with differing levels of substance. But that’s what gives RR7349 its edge. It’s not easy. It’s not comforting. It’s not something that can be put on just as an alternative to silence. This album isn’t for everyone. It’s not a barn burner. But it is an exercise in vision and craft that should be appreciated by those who seek out challenging music. It’s a welcome deviation from the standard fare that’s released week-in and week-out and that’s a beautiful thing.