RÜFÜS DU SOL – ‘Surrender’ review: Electronic trio offer atmospheric optimism but nothing new

Haunting sonics support hopeful mantras in a record that doesn’t stray from the playbook

A simple, almost ghostly, piano melody opens the fourth album from Los Angeles-based Australians RÜFÜS DU SOL. These three repeating notes are deceptively understated, but they lure you in and once they’ve ensnared your attention on ‘Next To Me’, it is hard to escape.

What RÜFÜS DU SOL – Tyrone Lindqvist, Jon George and James Hunt – do is gently draw you in, build a massive, multi-layered climax of beats, vocal harmonies, synths and instrumentals, then allow the waves to subside into stillness before doing it all over again. It’s not a difficult formula to grasp, but the journey never loses its impact.

Their last album, ‘Solace’, was chock-full of big, dreamy, beat-driven house anthems. ‘Surrender’ reads from the same playbook. It’s full of mantras (delivered by a children’s choir on ‘Make It Happen’) like “love will change your life, love can make it happen”, feel-good schmaltzy lyrics that would sound false and forced in less adept hands. But RÜFÜS DU SOL know the power of house music, with its rich, pulsating percussion and immersive synths, can make even the silliest of mantras sound like euphoric sermons.

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The trio have been spending extended time in the sprawling California desert, which makes sense of the spacious atmospherics that are signature RÜFÜS DU SOL. After their live album and film from last year, ‘Live from Joshua Tree’, the trio remained on location in the state to record ‘Surrender’. The scattered, rattlesnake percussion on ‘I Don’t Wanna Leave’ underpins the lovelorn, falsetto plea from Lindqvist: “I got nowhere to go, got nowhere to be… I don’t wanna leave right now, so stay with me for one more night“. His brooding vocals sound otherworldly, both melodic and melancholic in equal measure. The trio’s intricate, canny use of synths and echoing atmospherics on this album are lightly reminiscent of Vangelis’ 1982 soundtrack to Blade Runner.

Despite the haunting atmosphere, the reminders to stay hopeful and to remain with those who love you keep a vein of optimism running through all of ‘Surrender’. “At least I’m alive, believe me, believe me, believe me,” he croons on ‘Alive’. Oscillating synths entangle with an understated but momentous drum’n’bass beat. As the volume, the layers of synths, and the interplay of various melodies picks up momentum, the song becomes more like a sculpture, contoured and textured. Like the desert, RÜFÜS DU SOL songs change in hues, sustaining and releasing tension, so that their natural beauty disguises their inner mechanics.

Less complex is the banger ‘On My Knees’, relying on the simple refrain “Looks like I’m on my knees again” over a driving, four-to-the-floor beat that raises memories of being on a throbbing, sweaty dancefloor in the early hours of morning. This is an album made for a huge, outdoor stage under the fireworks, lasers and miles of starry sky in every direction.

Let the rain come down, open up the sky!” is the glorious, full-bellied holler on title track ‘Surrender’. “Shower me with love.” This is house music that aims for transcendence. RÜFÜS DU SOL aren’t doing anything radically new or unexpected, but if you’ve become an expert of the form, why change for the sake of change?

Details

Rufus Du Sol Surrender album review
  • Release date: October 22
  • Record label: Warner Music
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