Monday, December 13, 2010

Solvent (SCQ's Year-End Questionnaire Part V)

Jason Amm, songwriter and engineer of robot symphonies, reinvigorated his Solvent moniker this year with Subject To Shift, a disturbed sugar-rush of a record that explores his relationship between synth-pop and analog-electronica. Amm recently chatted about these interests, mentioning how some of his retro-faves have influenced his songwriting along the way and, yes, he includes a few 2010 picks (one from his revived Suction Records imprint).

SCQ: Every list-lover's favourite question: what are your top albums of 2010? Feel free to include any older yet worthy records you discovered this year.

JA: I haven't bought a lot of new albums this year -- mostly I've been buying re-issues from the "minimal synth" and industrial scene, stuff that was originally released in the early '80s -- But then most of this stuff was so rare and obscure, that I never heard it before anyways. Some of my favorites:
- RBE "Raudive Bunker Experiment" (You Don't Have to Call It Music 2LP)
- V/A "Cold Waves and Minimal Electronics" (Wierd / Angular comp)
- Die Form "Chronology - The Bain Total Years 1.977-1.985" (Vinyl On Demand boxset)
- Portion Control "Progress Report 1980-1983" (Vinyl On Demand boxset)
- Das Ding "H.S.T.A." (Minimal Wave LP)
- Narrow "From DIY With Love" (Treue Um Treue LP)
- Dark Day "Window" (Dark Entries LP)
- V/A "Underground Belgian Wave Vol. 1" (Walhalla comp)

As for newer stuff, here's a few 2009 releases that I discovered this year, that I really love:
- Corporate Park "Exchange" (Sexkrime Arts cassette)
- Corporate Park "Surrender" (FLA cdr)
- Led Er Est "Dust On Common" (Wierd LP)
- The Pains of Being Pure At Heart "Higher Than The Stars Remixes" (Slumberlands 12")
- D'Marc Cantu "Another Number" (Crème Organization 12")

And as for new 2010 albums, I have just 2 picks, the first being the debut new release on my recently relaunched Suction Records label:
- Lowfish "Memories Are Uncertain Friends" (Suction Records cd)
- CCCANDY "Lonesome Berlin" (Avant! LP)

SCQ: What were you listening to a lot of while recording your excellent album Subject To Shift?

JA: Well based on the list above, I guess it's pretty clear that I listen to a lot of super obscure lo-fi '80s synth music. But I've actually been burning myself out on '80s type music and have been really yearning for some quality new electronica, specifically '90s IDM stuff a la Rephlex, Skam, Aphex Twin, Bochum Welt, etc. What I need is some quality new melodic IDM, made on hardware. Hardware is the key; nothing bores me more than laptop IDM. Luckily for me, I went for many years not listening to anything but '80s synthpop type stuff, so I've been able to go back and listen to some of those older IDM records, the whole Aphex Twin back catalog in particular, and it's sounding fresh again. So I'd say that during Subject to Shift, I was listening to a lot obscure, dark, lo-fi early '80s synth music, along with a lot of Aphex's more abrasive and acid-oriented catalog, like the Analogue Bubblebath and Universal Indicator releases.

SCQ: Be cocky for once in your life: what was the finest thing you did all year? That moment where you actually thought "shit, I nailed that..."?

JA: I did a remix of a song by My Robot Friend, with Yazoo's Alison Moyet on vocals. I set a personal challenge for myself, to make the song sound as close as possible to a vintage Yazoo track. And yeah, I nailed it.

SCQ: Effect and Cause: Maybe it's because I'm unfamiliar with the clubs here in Ottawa but sometimes I design a dance-cave out of SCQ's office, creating low-lighting and cranking the stereo while I write. In this dream-club, your new record plays through about 90% of the time. Okay, your turn: confess a true tale that inspired one of the songs from Subject To Shift.

JA: Thanks for sharing that. To be honest, true tales don't inspire my music. For me, making music is about creating an alternate reality. This is one of the biggest challenges about writing lyrics for me - My nature is to write literally, and I want for the lyrics to be totally vague and abstract. I am totally in awe of Thom Yorke's lyrics for example. My favorite lyrics from the album come from a song where the vocals are so heavily effected, that most people don't even realize that they're vocals at all. So let me take the opportunity to publish them here. By the way, I was preparing to move when I wrote these, so take from that what you will:

"Frozen flowers / Boarded windows / Shallow water / Watching the water / Say hello to your new neighbor / No one should be living here / Scrambled noises / Hostile voices / A cold sensation / At this location / No invitation / For this occasion / No one should be living here / Meet other people / Tell them what you do / Fear of sleep / Awake for a week / Bake me a cake / Tell me I'm fake / No one should be living here"

SCQ: If all the reasonable and implausible ideas in your head came to fruition in 2011, what would they be?

JA: "Something got lost along the way" (a lyric from a Black Turtleneck [Solvent side-project] song) really sums up a lot of my feelings about my music career at this point. It's not that I'm not proud of "Subject to Shift" - I am. But this is something that I really want to address in 2011, and it's a large part of my personal decision to revive Suction Records. I'd like to put more effort into cultivating my niche, rather than trying so hard to reach outside of it.