Richard Devine - Sort\Lave

#1

I guess I have the honor of starting this thread. Who wants to talk about this ridiculous sonic masterpiece?! My thoughts after one listen through…

“Microscopium Recurse” is an unexpected choice for an opener, being over 12 minutes long and untethered to any regular rhythm. But it overcomes the usual challenges of these kinds of gestural, sound-design-forward pieces - it’s varied, purposeful, and of course pristinely sculpted.

I love the intro to “Oustrue” - all the morphing, watery, spectral vibes.

“k-0” is interesting to me for having so many unstable rhythmic bits. Got my imagination going about ways to do this with my modular - jitter the master clock sometimes? or just the patterns of certain voices? occasionally inject a way faster sequence via switching? unquantized burst triggers? stuttering at the sequence level vs live slicing audio?

“Sentik Pin” has a reeeeeally nice gradual build up (and down) in intensity. A variety of creative sounds throughout serving in “snare” capacity to my ears.

“Brux” - great groove, cool bass.

Really enjoy the sort of hollow, filter-enveloped percussion toward the end of “Pngtrk”. Pitch shift effects in this track are almost goofy.

“Opaque Ke” - great ostinato in that sparse looped plinky pattern. Interesting to me though that Richard makes the tracks work whether there is overt repetition like this or not.

More superb liquidy feels in the middle of “Eylansec”, plus that nice almost-vowel-sounding synth that’s getting panned all around. Fantastic (physically modelled?) spring sounds toward the end. This track feels particularly alive.

“Takara” - chill melodic closer, very nice tones. Though I think my favorite thing is the synth that sounds like a cricket in the background. :slight_smile:

A very rewarding listen.

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#2

The kick on Oustrue tho :scream:

Thanks for posting! May have slept on otherwise.

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#3

Honestly, so far I wasn’t able to connect with it in some meaningful way, Hecq is more my kind of idm-ish music.

Devine has some cool beats, cool fx, but too little melodies and “storytelling” to my taste.

Dunno, perhaps I should try listening to it on the go, that might work.

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#4

The album came out very cohesive. IDM flavors, with Devine’s characteristic deep sound design and pristine mixing.

But for me that is it: undoubtedly clear sounding, to the point of being clinical. In my opinion, lacks emotion.

If I compare it with Flutter or Chiastic Slide from Autechre, these works have more obscure mixing and even intentional distortion aspects, but they deliver the experience: it’s like the medium (speakers or headphones) aren’t enough to deliver those pieces with absolute clarity, feels like it’s from an alternate future, there is mystery.

I love Devine’s work, but I feel like it lacks that mystery aspect, what you see is what you get, it is an amazing journey, but not an elusive one. I understand it as a great technical achievement: Devine plays his studio like Yamandu plays his guitar.

Thats me! This is absolutely subjective.

EDIT: Also, @andrewhuang nailed the description of the actual sounds he manages to deliver. Juicyest sound design ever. The album is still a favorite - it’s just not on my “I’d take it to the desert island” list.

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#5

I have preordered it in vinyl (because my wife got me a turntable as a present for my birthday) and I have listened to it only once. I hope it will grow on me but for now it’s just nice patches with no actual emotional structure. Nice patches though. But I prefer Instagram for nice patches.

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#6

I never could connect with his music…i knew why when i discovered Caitlyn Aurelia Smith (and subsequently Laurie Spiegel, Ciani and Radigue) a couple of years ago-this is nerd music for boys while ‚the kid‘ is electronic music with lots of emotions for humans. I actually like the alien paradigm in electronic music, a genre that plays this card especially well is drum&bass. I can dance like a boy to contact by kemal but i cant find myself listening to this in a music context-why isnt this a soundtrack for a movie? And yeah the nice patch on insta nails it…

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#7

I view Devine as a very skilled technical musician. He is the modern-day electronic equivalent of an phenomenal Jazz guitarist capable of extremely complex playing but not necessarily of writing the kind emotional material that most people seek out. Usually, this type of music, regardless of genre, is appreciated almost soley by other musicians for its technical prowess. This is a common criticism of both jazz and ‘idm’.

Historically, bands/collaborations that can take this type of musician and pair them with another more emotive composer can do very well and generate a huge followings.

Someone mentioned autechre above and I agree but they are a total fucking anomaly. First of all you have 2 people individuals that work closely together and combined they somehow manage to be even more technical than devine(arguably at the jimi hendrix of e-music) and still imbue all of their works with very arousing aesthetics.

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#8

Any suggestions on a good album to introduce me to autechre?

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#10

Amber, LP5, Envane ep, Draft 7.30 – each are stellar, and accessible

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#11

But listen to the track “Cipater”. It has introduced Autechre for me, every time I listen to it, I still can’t figure out how it changes so naturally into something different. No drops, no verses, no sections. You can’t figure if the tempo changes, the envelopes, the time signature or what, but it manages to remain cohesive in changing, ends up mimicking life itself, we grow old and body and life changes, but there is a common core code uniting the seed and the tree.

I really like Autechre.

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#12

Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll have a good listen on my commute this week.

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#13

Some observations and questions as I read this thread -

  1. It’s funny that Autechre comes up as a more emotional example, when it’s quite common for their work to be reviewed as “cold” and “clinical” - I’m not sure if we’re dealing with a spectrum of emotional intensity, or just emotional responses that vary widely from person to person.

  2. I can’t deny that there’s the part of me that derives enjoyment from appreciating the technical prowess in technical music, but in fact I appreciate Devine’s work on an emotional level as well. And I had even typed something out about the “journey” it took me on, but left it out to keep my post briefer!

  3. I’m trying to analyze the emotional response I have to this kind of music - what do I feel that isn’t related to the technique? There is a sense of excitement and adventure. Something akin to fear at times. And at other times, ecstasy. Are these responses that many others don’t share, or are they responses that they don’t count as “emotional”? Or is it that some of them are emotions that repel rather than invite?

  4. Is the majority of our musical emotional experience tied to the use of traditional western harmony?

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#14

I’m slowly listening to this in in the car at first. I really enjoyed the first track, but mostly have wished for more repetition, recognizable patterns. I am a big fan of Venetian Snares’ “Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding”, and as complex and random-ish as it seems to be on the surface, it always feels like there is a rhythmic flow to it holding it together, and a sense of progression to it.

I reserve any more serious judgement until after I’ve listened at least once with full attention though.

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#16

Undoubtedly, there is subjectivity in emotional response but I think mostly we are talking about the spectrum of emotional intensity here. Autechre is a relevant comparison to Devine because both parties are producing pretty technical electronic music. Stockhausen and Xenakis were even more technical for their time and arguably even more clinical.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we might have someone like Elliot Smith, who’s work was HIGHLY EMOTIVE. Every track was very personal, open, honest, sincere and littered with fragile sounding vocals(probably the most immediate way for humans to connect to a piece of music) and pleasant chord progressions. Now he did nothing new from a technical standpoint. Not a god damn thing. But he was very good at using an established form (folk songwriting) to make people feel something.

Western harmony is definitely a powerful tool for invoking a pretty wide range of emotions. Another example might be that fast/crazy/distorted ala Venetian Snares makes me feel energetic or frantic. But to your point, i have never had drums make me feel sad in the same way as say a chord progression played by a lonely synth.

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#17

Drums definitely can impart different moods though. “Sad” is a little less common perhaps, but for “solemn” what comes to mind is something very slow in the bass range, or perhaps snare drum associations with military funerals. Of course usually there are other parts to help give context.

In taiko repertoire it’s not difficult to discern which pieces are joyful, fierce, dramatic, contemplative, narrative etc. even without vocal or melodic parts. At the 2011 North American Taiko Conference I watched San Francisco Taiko Dojo perfrom “Tsunami” – not very long after the devastating Tohoku tsunami (though I believe the song dates to the mid-90s) – and it was so full of anguish I almost couldn’t handle it.

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#18

I don’t really get the ‘lack of emotion’ argument here… I’ve never seen that as something he’s trying to do?

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#19

I’m kind of bummed-out by this. I constantly see this sort of gendered analysis for Autechre fans as well, so I shouldn’t be too surprised by it. Still, I wish we could get past the “men/boys/nerds like complexity, women/humans/true music fans like emotion” comments that I see everywhere.

I was helping babysit my nieces over the weekend, so I only got to listen to the first two tracks. I plan on listening to the rest of it tonight. Personally, I was blown away by what I’ve heard so far.

I agree that’s it’s an unusual choice for an opener, but I love the decision. Usually, these sorts of long, freewheeling tracks are stuffed into the back half of an album, but I feel like this is Richard saying “I’m very proud of this, and I want you to listen to this”. It’s a very confident move!

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#20

Me too. While Rob and Sean are undoubtedly composing from a male perspective, women can and do love Autechre.

I also find the “cold/clinical” analysis of Autechre a particularly lazy dismissal of their work. To me, and many others, their music is intensely emotional. But I think the emotions they explore are ones that we don’t usually talk about, probably because we don’t have the language to describe them (the closest adjectives I can think of are claustrophobia, euphoria, paranoia, enlightenment, surprise, fear, anxiety, and bliss, but none of them are truly adequate). IMO, they are some of the most brilliant and deep artists of any kind working today. Part of that is because of their unending enthusiasm for exploration in composition and sound design, but the main reason is that their music inspires feelings in me that I don’t get anywhere else.

Anyway, back on the topic at hand, I am very impressed by Sort/Lave. It’s the best thing I’ve heard from Devine yet. His sound design is really out of this world. I haven’t emotionally connected with his previous releases, but I am willing to give this one a chance. I won’t know how I feel about it for some months yet. He was one of my chief inspirations to go deeper into my own sound design practice, and he continues to inspire. Really glad I picked this up on vinyl.

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#21

I love this, and totally agree.

One of the single most powerful music experiences I ever had was my first time listening to Autechre (specifically, Confield). One of my hallmates lent it to me. I remember just being completely emotionally overwhelmed by the buildup in “Pen Expers,” which I still regard as a personal favorite composition.

I’ve seen Richard probably a dozen times live. I can say that the crowd is never “cold” or “emotionless”.

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#22

this

on Sort\Lave, I like the inclusion of intensely atmospheric pieces like Oustrue, Astra, Anemap, Opaque Ke, Takara. They’re all entry points for approaching the more complex sonic sculptures, which, underneath all the programming, I find just as emotional. A first for my experience of Devine’s music.

Try Untilted. If you’re looking for something more classic but not as indicative of their more recent work, LP5. If you’d rather scan through bits of their discography, here are two spotify playlists I like revisiting: 1 and 2

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