The Fans and the Curious
Less than a year after the release of the enjoyable Apples + Synthesizers, Jason “Solvent” Amm follows up with Elevators + Oscillators, a collection of remixes, reinterpretations and revisits. The culled material includes: selections from his Radio Ga Ga series of 12"s, like-minded peers’ covers, and new tracks. For being an album of addendum, the result is surprisingly cohesive and consistent. Guests seldom stray from Amm’s warm and melodic approach, hardly fraying the original fabric, while his own contributions sound like A+S leftovers (and that’s a good thing). In fact, the compilation spins like a highlights reel from the master take. Though hardly expository, E+O modestly embraces Solvent fans before moving on to the next act.
Amm establishes this familiar tone by debuting the track “Wish”, which runs the listener through his patented Numan-filtered vocals, enrapturing bass, and subtle drums. Structured like A+S single “My Radio”, “Wish” also taps a similar well of tenderness as the vocal wheezes, “Night falls, the stars are bright / I wish you were here tonight.” This natural imagery, in addition to completely vintage instrumentation, places the song in a recognizable atmosphere. With only slight rhythmic variation and layering does Amm express contemporaneity. In this manner, he invites listeners both green and blue by conceding considerable ground on their behalf.
Appropriately, the two remixes that follow chart like territory. Perspect’s Mitgang Audio remix of “My Radio” (from Radio Ga Ga, v.2) and Lowfish’s remix of For You (from Radio Ga Ga, v.1) both use Solvent’s base as a map for their slight tweaks. “My Radio” moves from a loose ‘lectric pop jaunt to a jittering ‘lectric pop march by featuring less hi-hat action, twittering tones, and greater emphasis on the one and two beats. “For You”‘s up-and-pause rhythm is maintained, albeit now with skittering and panning snare hits and buoyed by straight kicks and hits. The only marked change in both approaches is that the cleaner production value is not as romantic or nostalgic. At its worst the blippy approach feels clinical, but neither intrudes on Solvent’s ethos; instead, they contribute compatible pieces.
E+O plays like a Solvent record even when the remakes take a greater sonic left turn, because they still adhere to Amm’s blueprint. Legowelt prefers bitterness to nostalgia on “Radio”, pounding the tune to the march of a hollow, wooden snare and snarling, “When I looked into my radio / You always played the same old crap.” The runaway chase theme feels like Blade Runner taking the Midnight Express, or simply another point of view to the original’s melismanic Moroderisms. Similarly, Alter Ego’s interpretation of “Think Like Us” embraces the harshness of the original’s vocal by boosting the growl with a hard stomp. Unfortunately, in this case the take is an excessive drag at nearly seven minutes, especially when the rest of the disc’s works clock in around four minutes; E+O is not meant to consist of extended dance-floor workouts, but dance pop numbers. In this manner, Isan and Schneider TM successfully balance traditional songwriting and club aesthetics on their respective mixes. The former comes clean on “For You” with pitched up drip drops, creating a crystalline tone countered with powerfully warm bass tones. The latter’s live take of “My Radio” replaces synths with stuttering rhythms, pump organ loops and hiccupping effects, bringing Postal Service within reach of Solvent.
Amm’s quasi-instrumentals round out the record mostly as transition pieces. “Radio Goo Goo” plays off the treble of Lowfish’s mix and adds chilly ice drop polyrhythms, while “Interlude” aptly cools out the set after Alter Ego’s cardio-charger. The two remaining additions are more thoroughly composed song pieces, and tie the artist with his Yaz and OMD roots firmly: “Devices and Strategies” with its shooting Korg stars and moondrop keys, and “Apples and Oranges” with its Roland kicks and sputters underneath warping moog lines. While singularly interesting as incidental music, the tracks hold the disparate mixes together.
E+O is a welcome footnote by offering likeminded yet refreshing takes on A+S. Amm exerts steady presence, though mainly to create a sense of coherence in the project. Perhaps inadvertently, the Solventness of E+O also allows a first-time listener an opportunity to infer many stylistic qualities of the analog addict. With just a little effort and attention, Amm gracefully logs another work that should be of interest of fans and the curious.