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Listed: Solvent + Marsen Jules

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Dusted Features

Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Solvent and Marsen Jules.

Listed: Solvent + Marsen Jules


Warm and poppy electro-synth tunes, the likes of which flow freely from Toronto's Solvent, may seem like they're a dime a dozen, but very few are memorable past their first listen. For Solvent himself (Jason Amm, "a robot music composer"), this could not be farther from the truth. His latest releases, Apples and Synthesizers and Elevators and Oscillators, find Solvent - a true synth scholar - creating synth pop songs with tremendous depth and tasty melodies. Amm has carried his affinity towards the finer points of this growing leg of the music world into his own label, the well-respected Suction Records, on which a number of his own records were released. Apples and Synthesizers and Elevators and Oscillators are out now on Ghostly International Records.

1. Yazoo - Upstairs at Eric's
This is, in my opinion, THE crowning achievement in the synth pop genre. Hands-down, my all time favorite record. Every sound and melody is so bold, imaginative and perfect - everything in its right place. Perfect headphone listening for synth geeks like me, but with songs that are accessible enough to be played in mainstream bars & pub jukeboxes all over the world.

2. Skinny Puppy - Back and Forth Vol.1+2
This is their early demo tape stuff, recorded on porta-studio cassette in the early '80s. This is dark and funky synthesizer dance music recorded that still sounds absolutely fresh and inventive today. The rawness is addictive!

3. Soft Cell - Science Fiction Stories
This is a bootleg of their early demos. The poor recording quality is a detriment in this case (it was likely recorded live with a single microphone in a room), but the songs, most of which were never re-recorded, are definitely some of Soft Cell's best and sleaziest.

4. Gary Numan's Polymoog
Oh my god, those strings and wailing lead sounds on the first two Gary Numan albums.... I want a Polymoog!

9. Japan (late)
One of the problems with being an obsessive electronic musician is you end up listening to music with such an analytical ear. It becomes nearly impossible to listen without trying to take it in as inspiration. I love listening to the last two Japan albums - mainly because they are so incredible, but also because when it comes to Japan, I throw in the towel; I have no idea how they programmed some of those sounds or wrote such seemingly awkward, yet gorgeous, music. Sometimes it's nice to be able to just drop your jaw and soak it in.

5. Human League - The Golden Hour of the Future
Early demos and previously unreleased tracks from the Human League, which just came out for the first time a couple of years ago on Richard X's label Black Melody. I love the whole vibe of early Human League. Kraftwerk are most often revered as THE synth-pop originators, but for my tastes, Human League's contributions in the late 70s are even more exciting. This record perfectly illustrates my point of view.

8. Depeche Mode
I don't think anybody needs to explain why the Beatles were such a great rock band. Likewise, nothing needs to be said here.

6. Solvent's Minimal Wave Selections
This is a compilation I made, mostly from a series of minidiscs that Mr.Skanfrom recorded for me. It's my favorite early 80s synthpop obscurities, from such household names as Ceramic Hello, John Bender, Vice Versa, and League Of Nations. Naive and often freaky stuff!

7. Roland CR-78 drum machine
I could listen to the preset patterns on this classic analog drum machine for hours on end. I find myself enjoying just about every record I hear it on (Phil Collins "In the Air Tonight" - cough!) but quickly realize that I've tuned everything else out.

10. AFX - "Analord"
I've only heard #s 1-4 of this new 10-part 12" series on Rephlex. Actually I find these 12"s kind of boring and uninspired so far. I guess if it was the new Ceephax Acid Crew or Cylob release or something I'd be pretty impressed, but I've been waiting years for Aphex to drop all of that hyper-digital-1000-ideas-per-second nonsense, and that's what he has finally done. This stuff is pretty good but it's just not Aphex Twin magic. So my reasons for including this are as follows: one - I figured I should try to include something recorded after 1983, and two - as Aphex is always a couple of steps ahead of the pack, I'm hoping that others will follow suit, ditching their soft synths and plug ins for synthesizers and drum machines!

Marsen Jules

If you don't know German ambient artist Martin Juhls by his given name, it is quite likely that you are aware of some of his musical alter egos, which include "Marsen Jules," "Falter," and "Krill.Minima." While the different music released by each of these projects is superficially quite varied, each project certainly contains a common melodic and atmospheric sense. His music has been released by a variety of different labels (Thinner, Autoplate, and Miasmah among them), but his latest release Herbstlaub - this one as Marsen Jules - is on the venerable and relatively high-profile City Centre Offices imprint.

1. Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Love And Hate
Leonard Cohen has been one of my favorite artists for a long time. The emotional and atmospheric sound of his records is still a big influence for me, while the beautiful lyrics just fell into my heart.

2. Brian Eno - Neroli (Music for Thinking Part IV)
When ambient musicians start talking about Brian Eno it tends to be about the big influence which Music for Airports had on today’s ambient music. Neroli is my favorite work because it combines the ideas of ambient (Musique D´ambleument), minimalism and atmosphere in a perfect way. One musician, one deep sine lead with a long decay, one scale and improvisations on a single theme combined with lots of space and silence for an excellent piece of 50 minutes. Mind-blowing and inspiring at the same time. If you listen to my krill.minima album, zwischen zwei und einer sekunde, you will find a big Neroli-influence in the deep baselines.

3. Arvo Pärt - Für Alina
A classical ambient masterpiece. I heard it the first time at school, when my music teacher played it to me together with the even more interesting "Variationen zur Gesundung von Arinushka". The idea of using the atmosphere of the low piano strings just by making them vibrate by the frequencies of the higher notes is brilliant. If one is a piano player he should simply get into this.

4. Novisad - Seleya (Tomlab)
Some Reviews about my Marsen Jules records wrote about how much the influence of Wolfgang Voigt’s "Gas" is hearable in my music. Actually they are all wrong. If there’s any main inspiration for Marsen Jules than it’s simply the intensity and atmosphere of this album by Kristian Peters and I can’t wait to hear a new Novisad Album.

5. Sundays in Spring ( http://www.sundaysinspring.net)
This one is my special tip. An MP3-Label for post-rock and indiefolk. All music for free download. I met those guys on a show in Belgium. Really nice people. Check out the releases of "feuerbach" and "sun, cancelled"

6. Neil Young - Tonight´s the Night & Time Fades Away
If you ever want to hear someone pushing all his emotion and depression about the death of a close friend into the fragile vocal line of a simple song, than you should hear "Borrowed Tune" from the “Tonight’s the Night” album. Just pure rough emotion from one of the most personal moments of a rock´n´roll bastard.

7. Ultramarine - A User's Guide
I once bought this album just because of the nice cover and I can’t really tell anything about the artists except that they did a great and unique mixture of abstract beats, flowing house-pads and a minimal funk-attitude. This band should have become really big and the album should be a classic for everyone who likes electronic music.

8. Spokane - Measurements (Jagjaguwar)
I once had the pleasure to organize a show for this nice indiefolk-band from Washington featuring Labradford bass player Robert Dunn. Nice people and intense music. If you ever get the chance to see them live don´t miss it.

9. tlon - Acoustic Lazy Dolls
I bought this record (limited to 100CD-Rs) in the record store next to the Laika in Montreal. It’s based on sounds recorded by letting the needle of a record player fall into the loops of a record by Brian Eno. Great dreamy atmosphere and a musician with an excellent feeling for sound and sound-manipulation. It was a big pleasure to re-release this album for free mp3 download on our Autoplate label.

10. Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works II
The first ambient album I ever got. I bought it after school, put it in the CD player and fell asleep. Hours later I woke up and thought the music had just stopped a second ago. I listened to the album again and again, but somehow I couldn’t find the tracks that I seemed to have heard in my dreams. When later I read that Richard James made most of those pieces after dreaming about creating music in his studio I was really surprised and confirmed at the same time. Inspiring moments by a pure genius.

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