- The sound design mage breathes new life into his IDM-informed music.
- A friend once described Richard Devine's music as being in an "arms race" with like-minded artists such as Autechre or Venetian Snares—an imaginary competition for who could make the most hi-tech and bewildering electronic music. One could argue that Devine, who has spent recent years designing sounds for an electric car and a virtual reality platform, has outrun them all with records of almost inscrutable complexity. With his latest LP, Sort\Lave, Devine might be laying down his weapons—sort of. After the sensory overload of 2012's Risp, the American producer has moved away from heavy digital processing with a redesigned modular rig. For this record, Devine spent two years making a new track every night with a new modular patch, seeing where the analog machines would take him instead of programming tracks on his computer. Sort\Lave is the dense yet refreshing result, and one of the most approachable records of his career.
Still, Sort\Lave doesn't give you an easy way in. The opener, "Microscopium Recurse," is 11 minutes of maddening chaos. (It reminds me of a hyperactive version of Rashad Becker's solo work.) It's barely musical, but it's a feast for more adventurous ears, challenging prospective listeners and likely delighting Devine fans. "Revsic" adds a discernible yet still hectic rhythm, showing a method to the madness once you start to wrap your head around it. If you make it past Sort\Lave's opening gauntlet, you'll be rewarded with some of the most richly melodic music of Devine's career. "Astra" is soft and beautiful, with supple percussive textures that sound like they're melting in the heat. The closing track, "Takara," is essentially a lullaby, touching on the melodic peak of early '90s IDM. "Oustrue" has a stuttering pulse you could tap your foot too.
Devine tends to tinker with every sound he creates, but on Sort\Lave he relinquishes some control to his various modular patches. As a result, the album often feels a little more organic, even if it still sounds like it's made from alien matter. On "Sentik Pin," the drums are in constant flux, like geese flying in and out of formation. "Brux"'s eventual descent into chaos, far from the inscrutable rush of Devine's past work, now feels narrative and purposeful. He has sometimes been so far ahead of the pack that his music has likely confounded most listeners. But on Sort\Lave he finds a more balanced sound, where brain-scrambling delights are tempered by a newfound emotional connection.
01. Microscopium Recurse
06. Sentik Pin
10. Opaque Ke