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culture

Sound Advice: New Ways, by Solvent

Recording artist Jason Amm creates a soundtrack for the story of modular synths.

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New Ways is more than just the sixth full-length release from Solvent, the stage name for Toronto-based producer and electronic musician Jason Amm; it is also the soundtrack for the new documentary I Dream of Wires, about the rise, fall, and resurgence of the modular synthesizer. Originally brought on to score the soundtrack, Amm would end up producing, co-writing, and conducting interviews as the documentary developed, becoming intimately involved with many aspects of its creation. In this way, New Ways became not only a soundtrack, but also an exploration of Amm’s deep and evolving creative relationship with the modular synth. It was also an opportunity for him to once again release music on his own Suction Records label.

Amm’s work as Solvent has always been deeply invested in the possibilities of analogue equipment, but New Ways represents the first time Solvent has allowed himself to fall down the modular synth black hole, something he had previously resisted doing. Through some lucky finds and generous loans, he assembled a collection of pieces, including a classic vintage Moog System 15, and began to explore: the soundtrack is the result of that process of experimentation.

New Ways is both cheery and alien, familiar and cold. There is a sense of excitement that permeates the tones and textures, a newness that is occasionally tense and shot through with trepidation, but consistently surges forward into new territory. The aural landscape always falls short of being truly welcoming—even the brightest passages are often pierced through with little shards of dread. There’s a wonderful playfulness to the record, which finds its foil in this element of brittle danger.

I Dream of Wires is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray in a four-hour, Hardcore Edition, and a theatrical release (and shorter cut) will be premiering in the spring.

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