Released early last month on Music is the Devil, Survey Channel’s (a.k.a. Matt Donatelli) latest album is a simultaneously haunting ad soothing trip through what feels like a nostalgic trip through an alternate past. Throughout the album, there is a constant sense that we are watching a television broadcast that was not made for us. This sense is punctuated by weird and warped synths combined with airy and slightly spastic percussion that defines the album.
The album opens up with “Highjump Cycle,“ a shorter intro track meant to give the first impressions of what to expect on this album full of airy synths and a vibe reminiscent of one of those local broadcast messages telling viewers about upcoming civic events. As the album moves into the first full track, “Lane to Path,” we are abruptly introduced to the kind of percussion that is present throughout: tight kicks and airy percussion with a steady but also somewhat odd rhythm and healthy dose of bit reduction. Other examples of this ca =n be found on tracks “ISO7001,” “Red Sugars,” and “Prism Lips,” the last of which takes this technique and turns the effect higher to give us some crunchier kicks and snares,
While the percussion is prominent throughout, the synths are really what carry this album. The leads, the pads, generally all the synths, have a strange quality to them. A strange, warbly quality that is reminiscent of the old VHS tracking issues when you would have to try to adjust the player to get rid of the static lines at the top and bottom borders of the screen. This effect is used quite effectively to give the impression of a television broadcast.
This album from Survey Channel is an interesting addition to his discography. Interesting because, at first listen, it seems almost as though he tried to make a vaporwave album. However, a second listen brought me to the conclusion that, while he may be borrowing some of the same aesthetic choices, this album is not a nostalgic reach back into the past. Rather, it is a much more honest reimagining of the past. He is not trying to recreate or relive the past, he is making up a completely different past. And that alternative past is a fascinating trip that is well worth repeated listenings.