For over a decade, Jason Amm’s work as Solvent has neatly defied categorization. His music is too sweetly melodic for techno or acid, his compositions too fiendishly detailed for synth-pop. He was too steeped in the sounds of the ‘80s to participate in the incipient IDM scene; he was briefly lumped in with the short-lived electroclash movement, only to outlive it; he’s played “minimal wave” parties and goth clubs, indie-rock shows and techno all-nighters. But even as words fail in the face of Solvent’s music, its pleasures are anything but elusive.
Today, Zimbabwe-born Jason Amm lives in Toronto, ON, where he spends his time obsessively grappling with an outsized collection of vintage analog synthesizers, samplers, and sequencers. Solvent first materialized in 1997 with a string of singles and full-lengths (1998’s Solvent, 1999’s Solvently One Listens) on Amm’s own Suction Records, the Toronto-based label he founded with Lowfish’s Gregory DeRocher. The watershed release Solvent City (2001) on Berlin-based Morr Music introduced Amm’s sound to a wider audience, and Apples & Synthesizers (2004) marked Solvent’s move to Ghostly International. Along with notable remixes of artists including Soft Cell, Alter Ego, and Adult., Solvent tracks have appeared on high-profile DJ mixes and seminal compilations.
Solvent’s most recent record on Ghostly International, 2010?s Subject to Shift, marks a turn for the darker as Amm embraces his love of the abrasive sounds of acid and industrial. And while a sinister tone or two now dances among Solvent’s sparkling hooks and bright streaks of synthesizer, and while Amm’s music drifts even further from accepted genre-specific reference points, Solvent’s sound has only deepened. After more than ten years of composing love songs for robots, Amm sounds like nothing more than himself.