By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Music fans have been reveling in veritable explosion in synthesizer music over the past few years between the reissue of soundtracks to classic John Carpenter and Dario Argento films, a legion of young musicians exploring the sounds produced by vintage and modern gear and the rise popularity of analog keyboard and sequencer music for such popular television series as Halt and Catch Fire, Mr. Robot and this summer’s Netflix hit Stranger Things.
While it was the resolutely retro Stranger Things theme and soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein put their Austin, TX-based synth group S U R V I V E squarely on the map, the quartet (rounded out by musicians Adam Jones and Mark Donica) has been making music since first coming together in 2009.
The quartet cultivated a sonic aesthetic that nodded heavily to the ’70s and ’80s soundtrack work of Carpenter (who scored his own films), Italian prog outfit Goblin (who worked extensively with Argento), Giorgio Moroder and Tangerine Dream along with a touch of Trent Reznor’s percussive industrial beats and the IDM group Autechre. S U R V I V E went on to produce several independently released cassettes and records while building reputation as a leading light of the burgeoning synth music scene that sprung up around Austin’s analog keyboard instrument shop Switched On.
In 2012, the group issued it’s proper debut album mnq026 (S U R V I V E has taken to titling all of its releases by the catalog number) on the Italian Mannequin label. It also began making festival appearances after invitations to perform at Moogfest, the psych-oriented Levitation Fest and Fun Fun Fun. The pitch-perfect theme song for Stranger Things and the show’s sudden explosion of popularity this summer gave the underground synth band an enormous boost as numerous remixes and even a tribute version by band influence Tangerine Dream.
With their profile raised immensely by the Netflix hit and the subsequent August release of not one but two volumes of music Dixon and Stein created for the series, S U R V I V E is hitting the road to promote it’s second full-length album and debut recording for Relapse Records entitled RR7349. For this sold-out live appearance in San Francisco before heading to Joshua Tree to play the Desert Daze Festival next weekend, S U R V I V E will be joined by Majeure (the solo project of A.E. Paterra, the drummer from brilliant, like-minded prog/synth duo Zombi) and Oakland-based electronic artist Russell Butler. Fans who can’t make it into Friday’s S U R V I V E show can still see the group when they play Harlow’s in Sacramento Saturday night.
S U R V I V E with Majeure
Friday, Oct. 7, 9:30 p.m. $12 (sold out)
The Elbo Room