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S U R V I V E / Adolescent (live at Village Underground)

22 February 2017

SURVIVE live February 2017Britain is on the cusp of a storm, winds are beginning to batter the coast and a strange feeling seems to permeate the air. This unquiet atmosphere could be something out of an old horror movie; as I push my way against the start of the gales to the venue, I can’t help feeling that S U R V I V E are the perfect soundtrack for this night.

Village Underground is a fairly large long archway of a venue with a booming bass sound system that hits so low it could almost break glass. First up tonight is Adolescent, a lone man with two keyboards and a laptop. Industrial scratching noises play an almost constant crackle behind the first number, which is a fifteen-minute epic. Over the top of this are gentle, lilting ambient piano chords, similar to something Harold Budd and Brian Eno would have done. Every now and then a sample pops up or there will be a brief thirty-second burst from a drum machine or some noisy drone parts.

Even though the piano playing is quite beautifully done, these other interruptions of sound feel quite out of place at times and you are not really sure what you are listening to as a cohesive whole. Is it electronica or is it meant to be ambient? As a hybrid between the two it isn’t totally successful. It would be interesting to hear his album Mutter to see if this translates better in the confines of your own listening space than it does within a live format, and also whether the sound would be expanded by other instruments.

SURVIVE live February 2017

It’s a sold-out show tonight: this could be down to two reasons, that a) S U R V I V E’s music is damn catchy and melodic, or b) because two of the members of the band supply the soundtrack to the successful ’80s horror-inspired TV programme Stranger Things. Judging by the t-shirts of the people next to me, it’s probably a little bit of both.

S U R V I V E are a four-piece who stand in a row at the front of the stage behind an arsenal of old and new synths (I spot an ARP Odyssey, a large old Korg and a smaller ARP, but because its pretty dark it was hard to make out the others). Their sound comes across like a mixture of John Carpenter’s soundtrack work and late seventies to early eighties Jean-Michel Jarre with a soupçon of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis thrown in for good measure. Yes, the beats are sometimes a bit harder, to give it a slightly modern edge, but the sequencing and melodies more than tip their hat to those electronic pioneers.

Mainly on tour to promote their new album RR7349 (named after the album’s catalogue number), it is no surprise that the set is heavily loaded towards that LP. Tracks like “Sorcerer”, “A.H.B” and “Copter” are full of wonderful pulsating rhythms, sweeping majestic chords and beautifully controlled lead work. The sound transports you into a weird otherworld, somewhere between a horror movie or a Dune-inspired planet somewhere out there in the cosmos.

SURVIVE live February 2017

“Floating Cube” and “Omniverse” have toe-tapping dance moments while still stretching into the kind of music you should be reading Moebius books while listening to. Its music that washes over you in waves and there is something almost hypnotic about it. At times it glistens like it could be part of a sci-fi movie; and at others it feels deep, dark and ominous. To see the four figures standing sentinel behind their synths reminds me of early Kraftwerk shows, but this music is not that of robots, but rather a lush-sounding and at times achingly beautiful trip into the outer reaches of the universe.

This kind of synthesizer battery of sound seems to be in with the underground at the moment, which is no bad thing. For those of us who were in to the first wave of artists, its refreshing to see how this sort of music is being reinvented today. S U R V I V E are certainly one of the best acts making this kind of music around. So, fresh from the eerie chimes of “Stranger Things”, I make my way back home and wait for the storm to unfurl outside.

-Gary Parsons-

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