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Richard Devine - Asect:Dsect

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Artist: Richard Devine

Album: Asect:Dsect

Label: Schematic

Review date: Nov. 24, 2003

Richard Devine’s aspirations to the profession of cinematic sound designer have become increasingly apparent with each of his recent offerings, and in Asect:Dsect, he has, even without the aid of a corresponding film, actually managed to enter into the realms of planetary creation. The man is a specialist in throwing sounds around an area, and he uses this technique as much as is technically possible within the confines of a stereo setup, to the effect of placing the listener in an artificial space – one that upon entering, becomes eerily reminiscent of movies such as Ridley Scott’s “Alien” series.

Asect:Dsect shows a linear progression of technique and style from his past work. Whereas the first full-length, Lipswitch, was crammed with uber-precise bitfunking polyrhythms, Aleamapper, his second, went the opposite way, foregoing the trademark heavily layered beats that had won him his many fans for a more abstract display of creative sound design. On both albums, Devine’s technical mastery of his arsenal of digital and analog synthesizers is glaringly apparent, but even more so on his latest, which stylistically melds the previous two. The soundscapes are still there, but now so are the beats. On tracks like “Itsuko”, bass pulses roll and crunch, switches flip, valves sputter and hiss. On others, like “Halicrafter” or “Captract”, almost out of control rhythms shift and slither around like crocodiles, eventually consuming themselves and disintegrating into reverberating particles of sonic debris.

Devine regenerates technologically-advanced worlds on each track, but once put there, certain questions arise: Why am I here? Where is the funk? Devine seems to be placing much more emphasis on his textures and atmospheres than on the emotive content of the music. The realms of Asect:Dsect are absent of human life, so while Devine’s sounds may envelop the listener, it’s hard to get lost. There are definitely elements of darkness, foreboding, suspense, and doom, but these themes seem to provoke more of a cognitive recognition of their presence than an actual evocation of the feelings they represent, leaving the traveler with a somewhat cold, detached, almost mechanical appreciation of his or her journey.

It takes many listens to navigate this densely-packed album, and close, almost exhaustive attention is necessary in order to absorb the thousands of samples and sound bytes that inhabit the thirteen tracks. The encounter with Asect:Dsect could be likened to slogging through a digitized version of the jungle in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” – sonic algorithms get stuck between the treads of your boot, macro routines smack you in the face as you pass by, granulated waveforms occasionally render you useless with disease. It is a thick, difficult, at times dangerous and unpleasant journey, but an ultimately fascinating one for those bold enough to embark upon it. So for all the travelers upon the good ship Asect:Dsect, I wish you the best of luck, and godspeed…

By Dusted Magazine

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