Self-Discovery for Social Survival is a documentary film in three parts, following 16 surfers in three very different countries. Exploring hazy adventures in surfing cultures in Mexico, the remote Maldives Islands, and Iceland, the film's soundtrack is an integral part of the package, as the musicians worked closely with the producers of the documentary to create original music that not only scored the visual elements but acted as an emotional counterpart to the experiences of the surfers. For this project, the bands and artists were handpicked for their place in the somewhat psychedelic nature of surf culture and philosophy. Included here are dusty garage psych act the Allah-Las, Swedish acid rock powerhouse Dungen, renowned ambient artist Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, sun-dazzled indie dub group Peaking Lights, and several collaborative works by New Zealand experimental rocker Connan Mockasin and MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden. The almost-entirely instrumental soundtrack finds its various contributors covering a wide range of sounds to highlight the film's three locales. The Allah-Las stick most closely to the traditional form of surf rock as it was defined in the late '50s and early '60s, with reverb-coated guitars, rolling drums, and beachy melodies coming through on a series of jammy instrumentals with titles like "Blackberry Jam," "Raspberry Jam," and so on. Cantu-Ledesma offers a more subdued interpretation of aquatic bliss with his misty, ambient instrumentals. Peaking Lights go for a dancey approach, with tracks "Mirror in the Sky" and "Hold On" echoing Arthur Russell's smeary mid-'80s disco experiments. Mockasin and VanWyngarden are all over the place with their three tracks, ranging from unobtrusive incidental music pieces like "Mountain Pass" to the claustrophobic post-Animal Collective goo of "Bad Boys." Like the best soundtracks, a lot of Self-Discovery for Social Survival works outside the context of the film it accompanies. This is a mixed bag, but the strongest moments are more inspired than the standard soundtrack contribution.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas