Sunday, April 18, 2010

Subject To Shift - Solvent

Subject To Shift

Ghostly International.

SCQ Rating: 78%

Solvent (Jason Amm) first entered my aural stratosphere with Apples and Synthesizers, a record that wrestled to forge his early laptop ticks with an increasing affinity for rave-up electro. Amm’s technique was never in doubt so much as his direction, as his dreamy melodies were concocted with dance-elements so sharp, the songs felt too abrasive for easy-listening, too measured to really go mental to. So when I received word of Solvent’s return, six years and two compilation/companion releases since Apples and Synthesizers, I greeted the potential of Subject To Shift with the same distanced lethargy. Instead of confounding listeners with another clash of styles, Subject To Shift is a straightforward embrace of noir electronica, covering both the luxurious appeal of heady techno and the retro fascination of synth-pop.

Early highlight and first single ‘Loss For Words’ goes a great distance to incite just what rough edges Amm has buffered from his repertoire since the mid-point of the 00’s. With bubbly post-Give Up programming underscoring a collage of half-formed melodies, ‘Loss For Words’ carries the clear-headedness of verse/chorus electro-pop but the minuscule details of a top-class producer. And it’s that combination of hook-infused catchiness and clever embellishments that light fire to Subject To Shift’s dancefloor affair. ‘Formulate’ and ‘Don’t Forget the Phone’ dig into the Depeche Mode crate and come out with fresh electro takes on a timeless sound already crooned over by groups like Junior Boys. When Solvent isn’t employing vocoder-laced vocals or 3AM-on-eight-balls energy, he’s finessing some of his most accessible, romantic instrumentals to date. ‘A Product Of the Process’ ignites his dreamy keys with a propulsive beat while ‘Panoramic’ closes the disc on an airy, optimistic note; the key to both tracks’ success lying in Amm’s less confrontational beat-mincing.

As with any appropriation of retro-stylings, Subject To Shift has a few are-you-serious moments; none more smirk-inspiring than ‘Take Me Home’, where a vocal-effect’s low-growl sounds as if Dr. Claw from the Inspector Gadget cartoon is grinding up on you in a dark club, talking dirty in your ear. Despite its sinister veneer, these odd moments give the disc a familiar, Solvent-esque charm. Whereas Solvent’s early oeuvre seemed weakened by over-thinking and needless complication, Subject To Shift filters his cerebral compositions into a pulse-hijacking, synth-pop groove. Make no assumptions about this surprising and decadent return.

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