The results of last week’s election have spurred talk
among students of moving to Canada. If any of these dissenters end
up in Toronto, they might want to look up Jason Amm.

Music Reviews
What a lovely day for a tea party! (Courtesy of Ghostly)

After almost a decade of scattered releases at different labels
including Morr Music, Ersatz Audio and his own imprint, Suction
Records, Amm, aka Solvent, seems to have found his element on Ann
Arbor’s own Ghostly International. His latest release,
— and first full-length in three years — Apples and
, is holistically an homage to the skilled artistry
of synth-pop and, at a dismantled level, 13 melodious tracks
equally worthy of booty-shaking and contemplation.

Electro-pop is often derided by critics as being clinical;
Apples and Synthesizers evades this pigeonhole with
melody-driven, hook-infused songs that humanize a
characteristically aloof genre. Standout track “My
Radio,” for example, packs enough liltingly layered melodies
and high energy to make even the warped vocoder vocals seem like
they’re being delivered by a misty-eyed robot. These detached
vocals, which appear on a number of tracks and are a new turn in
Solvent’s work, sound best when done minimally. Heavy vocals
on songs such as “Think Like Us” tend to dominate and
flatten what should be moving, pounding lines.

Occasional tonal repetition gives the album a tedious feel, but
Apples and Synthesizers varies enough to prove that Solvent
takes synthesis seriously. “Science With Synthesis” is
a euphoric offering of different sounds with tight enough
production to avoid sounding cacophonic. The following track,
“Background Noise (Don’t Become)” is an aptly
ambient piece with a kind of transience and fluidity that is
distinctive of labelmate Kiln.

Emotional lyrics — though filtered through a vocoder
— add to the album’s warmth. “For You” is
archetypically romantic and nostalgic, and “My Radio”
mourns an old FM station: “It doesn’t seem so long ago
/ When I loved you, my radio.” Though Solvent’s tracks
revolve around cozy centers, there is an overall sharp, metallic
production that creates a balanced sound fun enough to dance to but
intelligent enough to appreciate as artful exploration. In
Apples and Synthesizers, Solvent masters, without
recreating, the retro appeal of catchy electro-pop (think
’80s Brit-synthers The Human League) while respecting and
polishing a progressive vision of electronic music.

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

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