The future of music is visual — that is, if Richard Devine is anything of a harbinger of what's to come. In the glitch-laden, sterile landscape of erudite electronic music, the Atlanta-based producer's brand of postapocalyptic, advance-of-the-machines-type music is an increasingly visible force. After all, in 1999, he remixed Aphex Twin for Warp's 10+3 Remixes comp and followed that up with two full-length albums on Schematic in 2001. And now, perhaps, Devine has gone post-music with his latest, Asect:Dsect (Schematic/Asphodel, 2003), an album inspired by visual sources such as painting, sculpture and architecture and figures such as Francis Bacon, Antoni Gaudí and John Maeda.
“I took quite a bit from [modern] visual artists because they use a lot of CAD modeling software and, of course, use computers to construct the actual form and structure of their compositions,” Devine says. “And it's almost the same process of what I do; it's only in the musical realm with the audio vibrations, but we're all working with the same principles of design — you know, texture, repetition, form, color and tone — they're all things that can be applied in either realm.”
Devine brought the visual and musical worlds together by using applications such as Algorithmic Arts Softstep Pro, U&I Software Metasynth, Cycling '74 Max/MSP, Composers' Desktop Project and MRAC Symbolic Composer to compute the musical values of skeletal structures, which he then interwove into his compositions. To run all of these programs — as well as Digidesign Pro Tools, Emagic Logic Audio and Steinberg Nuendo 2.0 — Devine relies on a suite of nine computers: half Mac, half PC. “All of them do sound creation: Some act as samplers; some act as synthesizers,” Devine says. “I have one computer that controls all of the other computers, basically like a symphony. And then I have a separate final mixdown computer that does all of the actual hard-disk recording functions.”
As for digital signal processing and recording, Devine's studio is a gear whore's Xanadu, with a Yamaha O2R 96; a 32-channel Mackie board; a host of Eventide processors (the Orville is his favorite); five custom analog synths (built by a friend); and items from MOTU, Focusrite, TC Electronic, Akai, Clavia and Kurzweil. An unlikely favorite in his studio, however, is an early version of Native Instruments Vokator. A beta tester for Vokator, Devine encountered some vexing situations while trying to design presets for the program. “There were lots of strange things happening … but it was incredible because I was getting some of the most bizarre, interesting textures that I'd ever heard,” he says. “The final program is nowhere even near as screwed-up as what the original one was because of all the problems, but I liked all the problems that I was hearing, all these things that were crashing the computer and getting it to screw up my soundcard. I used something that was kind of broken and unfinished, but it really proved to be an efficient sound house.”
And given that Devine often incorporates as many as 1,500 sounds in one track, that effectual addition to his studio is no doubt a keeper. One of those 1,500-sound songs is “Captract,” an intense needle shower of sonic stimuli and Devine's favorite from Asect:Dsect. “I was definitely taxing about eight computers to get that track done,” Devine says. “That track is my favorite because it changes so much; there's so much diversity in the way the sounds change and the way the movement takes you from one transition to the next. And it kind of evolves right up to the end, where it's this really sort of intense, insect-gnawing, crushing alien structure. It just reminded me of this complex DNA kind of high-tech, alien-form music.”
Alien his music may be to some (his girlfriend classifies it as “music that only the insects can understand”), Devine would have it no other way. “I always love having this crazy flux of information catapulted at your ears at all times,” he says.