Vocoders are mostly charming devices. When layers of robot-sounding effects are applied to pleasing, hum-worthy melodies, the result often calls for many listens, providing the beats are good. On Solvent’s Elevators & Oscillators, Jason Amm goes overboard with the vocal effects, and even though his sort of electronic/techno pop is often bubbling with energy and great ideas, the robot vocals tire quickly.
Elevators & Oscillators is a collection of remixes, a few numbers from previously released twelve-inch singles, and some new stuff, and it works like a companion piece to its predecessor, last year’s Apples & Synthesizers. Amm favors the vintage end of the electro-pop genre and has been putting out synthesizer-heavy records since 1997. His work is steeped in Moog tones and classic beat-machine mechanics, and although it’s inspired by the eighties faction that has infiltrated most pop circles these days, it’s not overcooked with Erasure idolatry. In fact, opener “Wish” seems to be Solvent/Amm at his best. It’s a somber, mellow piece that travels on a heavenly vocal melody, spacey synths, and subtle, classic-sounding beats. Amm’s verses are heavily coated with his favorite gadget: vocoders take over for nearly half of the tracklist.
Some of the vocal melodies, particularly on “Wish” and “For You,” can stand on their own, without the persistent meddling from Hal in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. There are genuinely interesting pieces on Elevators — remixes from Schneider TM and restful atmospherics from Isan, among them — the robot-vocals thing, which penetrates half the album’s thirteen songs, loses its luster after the first two tracks. Bad management decision, Jason.