By Chad Swiatecki, special to the American-Statesman
Bathed in deep red light while the pulsing throbs generated by the synthesizers in front of him cascaded on a transfixed audience on a recent Friday night at Barracuda, Adam Jones was a portrait of concentration. For what seemed like minutes at a time all 500 in attendance and Jones and his Survive bandmates Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein and Mark Donica appeared almost statue still, the musicians moving to trigger different sound effects or rhythms from their gear and what looked like miles of cables.
It was a long way fhe from an iconic live music moment like ‘60s-era The Who destroying their instruments in a tornado of violence, but there’s no doubt it was a crowning moment long in coming for Survive, who were celebrating the release of their new album “RR7349” on Relapse Records.
As much as it was a milestone for the band, the night was also a statement of sorts for the experimental synth movement in Austin, which has recently received wider attention because of Survive members Stein and Dixon’s soundtrack work on the acclaimed Netflix series “Stranger Things.” The night served as a dual showcase for Jones’ Holodeck Records and Fantasy 1 Records, both of which release albums, singles and cassettes from Austin’s experimental scene.
Jones and his bandmates migrated to Austin from the Dallas area in 2008 and were won over by a community that had produced dance and experimental music from acts like Neon Indian, FM Campers and more.
“Chad (Allen) from Switched On was my gateway to get into electronic music, because before we’d been doing more kind of ambient guitar music with lots of effect,” Jones said of the synth and gear store that has been lauded as the crucial focus point for the Austin synth community.
“When I got my hands on some analog gear I found the sound we’d been looking for and seeing what other bands were doing I realized that this was our thing.”
Jones soon took on side projects – he had five bands at one point but is now down to three: Survive, Troller and Thousand Foot Whale Claw – and saw a need for a record label for musicians and fans interested in experimental music from Austin, made largely with synthesizers, sampled sounds and effects rather than traditional “rock” instruments.
He created Holodeck in 2012 and has put out a mix of 40 albums and singles, with fans all over the world coming to look at the label as a trusted source for synth-based music of all kinds, with Jones noting that Greece really loves the singer Marie Davidson, while Survive is popular in the U.K.
Four of the label’s younger acts – Symbol, Xander Harris, Windows 1995 and Lachane – will merge with the visual arts on Saturday when they perform live to “rescore” the Japanese ghost movie “Kwaidan” in an Austin Film Society event at the AFS Cinema complex on Middle Fiskville Road.
Jones will be away on tour with Survive while those bands are taking part in the event, but said it’s an example of the try-anything spirit that happens among local musicians and visual artists in Austin.
“I knew the people here were prolific and there needed to be a label or a unifying brand for what was going on,” he said, adding that he spends about 90 hours a week focused on the label and his three bands. “I’m lucky because the one thing I’m never lacking in is great music to choose from, and it’s just a matter of having enough of my own time.”
Saturday’s event: Austin Film Society screening of “Kwaidan” with live score performance by Symbol, Xander Harris, Windows 1995 and Lachane. 8 p.m. Saturday, AFS Cinema, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road. Cost: $14 general, $12 for AFS members at austinfilm.org.
The band talks “Stranger Things” and “RR7349”