SOLVENT with ADAM MARSHALL , MARIO J and TERENCE KISSNER at Footwork (425 Adelaide West), Saturday (May 13). $10 before 11:30, more after. www.afesociety.com. Rating: NNNNN
Solvent (aka Jason Amm) still seems bemused and even a bit bewildered that his synth pop noodling has found a home in dance music.
The Toronto-based producer has been releasing electronic music since 1997, but he's always been outside the traditional dance music scene. He didn't start buying synths because of life-changing nights at raves. Instead, he's inspired mainly by 80s electro-pop and 90s IDM -- neither of which would make much sense at a big dance party.
Nevertheless, the DJs keep playing his tracks, and lately his tunes have been showing up on mix compilations by some pretty big names, including Sven Vath and Death in Vegas. Solvent's obvious affection for classic new wave has led some critics to paint him as a retro throwback, a tag that gets under his skin no matter how well-intentioned they might be.
"It's ignorant really -- if you can't hear the difference between this and a Human League record from 1981, then you don't understand enough about electronic music to be reviewing this record," Amm says over coffee.
"Obviously, that kind of music is my greatest influence, but I've definitely been informed by techno and electronica, and there are lots of sounds in my music that you'd never hear in 80s synth pop. Guitar bands aren't being constantly reminded that the foundations of guitar pop were laid down in the 60s, so why should it be different for this music?"
To be fair to the critics, Amm admits he's not very interested in most modern electronic music. Many of his song titles and lyrics play with a certain futurist kitsch that recalls Kraftwerk's odes to technology, and the name of his newest project, Black Turtleneck, brings up images of electro-geeks of another era.
"You can't take the Black Turtleneck thing that seriously. It's referring to that Dieter stereotype, but it's not an outright joke. It's pretty genuine and is an homage to new wave culture, which is my passion. We are poking a bit of fun at ourselves -- I do wear a lot of black turtlenecks. It isn't the 1980s any more, and you can't ignore everything that's happened since then and do this kind of thing 100 per cent seriously."
Black Turtleneck is a collaboration between Amm and vocalist/producer Thomas Sinclair, whose vocals have made the material Amm's most overtly pop so far.
Slated for release in early June, Musical Chairs should make it clear that Amm isn't doing a piss-take on synth pop. In a sea of post-electroclash artists still hiding behind irony, he's doing it for real.