Richard Devine’s Vimeo account is something special. It’s certainly partly theater – there’s something entirely alien about seeing a nest of gear, tangled in cables and blinking, as if modules have achieved sentience and starting interconnecting themselves. But behind that facade of nerdy chaos is some real thought about how to make sounds by creating unexpected combinations of signal processors. It’s something I’ve been discussing with a lot of people lately – this interplay between stability and instability, automaton and entropy.

Mutant Mesh Drums Patch from Richard Devine on Vimeo.

Richard explains what’s happening here:

Short Patch experiment with a few new modules, including the Mutant BD9, Mutant Snare, Pico Drums x 2, running through various effects. The main CV modulation sources in the patch are the Modcan Quad LFO, and the new Forge which was used to create a fast quick modulation bursts to the Amp decay Pitch etc on the BD9. Drones via the Music Thing Radio Music, playing a feedback drone wave going through the Tiptop Z-DSP “Halls of Valhalla card, program 7.
I ran the BD9 through the new black hole DSP module by Erica Synths, and the Mutable Instruments Clouds running a unreleased firmware, and finally some Rainmaker X 2 for the snare processing, pitch delays. There is also a bit of Z-DSP, Eventide H9, AD Reverb, OWL, and ErbVerb too. Enjoy, download to the audio file below. 🙂
track download: bit.ly/29VjOOS

I love the track, so thanks, Richard.

Actually, maybe what’s really significant about modulars is it makes the otherwise unseen world of signal processing and sound design visible to people. I think that’s wonderful. At the same point, you could easily miss the point here, which is that part of what you’re getting isn’t about the gear at all – not on a superficial level anyway. It’s about the design that went into the individual modules and how they connect to one another, and how Richard thinks about sound design. It’s actually striking to me that there’s a clear compositional link between the sounds and structures Richard is getting with this rig and his voice on software from years ago.

For something with a different feeling, here’s a more melodic groove from just under a year ago – as easy-going and relaxed as the other track is dystopian scifi lounge.

Harmonic Symmetry from Richard Devine on Vimeo.

That also has a download and explanation of signal flow.

It’s nice to see the walkthroughs of how things are routed, too, for the curious.

Lots more:
https://vimeo.com/richarddevine

  • Elekb

    Richard Devine has got to be one the most creative and readily identifiable composers in electronic music from the past 20 years. Love his music and most of the time, when I don’t know the track, I can guess it’s him. Taking a peek at his spaceship studio only enhances the fangasm, I guess!

    His Vimeo account is pretty amazing, glad you brought it up.
    On a side note – his former official website was also an artwork in itself – unfortunately the domain seems
    to have been taken over by a porn-peddling cybersquatter… :-/

  • Simon Littauer

    @elekb:disqus Its still up: http://www.devinesound.net/ great work under the “credits” tab aswell

  • Anonymous Coward

    *yawn*

    yet more “wire up some modules, let some mildly interesting complexity emerge and hope the reverb saves your ass” shit, from an established artist who is too clever not to know better.

    wake me up when people actually come down from the modular kool-aid high and study composition and electronic music history, invest time to get to know their tools intimately and learn to tame complexity to aesthetically relevant ends for 2016. and if they don’t, enjoy the “late 90s electronica, just with a mess of cables and 4-figure budget” sound, I’ll pass.

    • Miss DJex

      Anonymous Coward, whats does your music sound like?

    • You almost had me with your first sentence, because I often think similar when I watch this kind of videos. But then you ruined it all for yourself with the second part. If there’s one bloke who knows his tools and music theory I guess it is Richard Devine. And many others too, like the editor of this website, who doesn’t exactly produce mainstream pop musice either. Do you have an actual point you’d like to make or are you just trolling?

      • Anonymous Coward

        I do give Devine the benefit of doubt, as you should note in my first sentence, and on the flipside, that is also why I expect better from him. the second part is pertinent to my overall sentiment about most “modular music” posted online these days, not specifically to Devine or these pieces.

        my actual point is that there is too much dabbling, too many half-hearted attempts at musical coherence that fail to register as anything beyond gear demos in modular-land; that to mature as an artist, you have to invest time in getting to intimately know your tools, and in the present module-craze economy that is next to impossible, because dabblers have little time left over from buying, selling, critiqueing and demoing their modules. that as computer scientists like to say, “you can’t wish away complexity”, you have to trim and tame it; that the kind of complexity that modular enthusiasts typically rejoice in makes it impossible for them to totally take control of and account for every element of their music (the necessity of which you may disagree with, but I assert that it is what we need today; I could argue for it in a longer discussion if you so incline). Devine’s videos do ultimately exemplify these problems: he has turned into simply a deeper pocketed version of the average dabbler drowning in his self-inflicted accidental complexity.

        as an exercise, try hitting play on the second video, and turning off your monitor. listen to the track without the images. is it as impressive? does it stand on its own feet as music? would it, had you had no prior context in the form of images and signal flow description? (i know it’s not a finished “album track”, but the point remains.) listen one more time, and then tune in an autechre or aphex twin or oval track from, say, 1997. is that enough progress for 20 years, and specifically for this 20 years, or are we just dabbling with slightly better and more accessible tools as the world keeps burning around us (in no little part due to undue technological complexity)?

        • I anticipated you were not intending to troll. In fact, I agree with your point (as I tried to indicate in my reply to your first post.) I just thought that the way you worded it above was too short to make clear what you intended to say. Well, at least for my understanding.

          And yes, I do agree that most of the modular “music” isn’t that impressive. I actually lost interest in the second video halfway through even while watching it. As amazing as all these hundreds and hundreds of new modules every week are from a nerdy, technical perspective, as underwhelming is most of the sound that people seem to produce with it. One thing is that product presentation or review videos focus on the pure capabilities of a thing, but musicians (hobbyists or pros – that doesn’t matter for the case) should be doing more with it than just producing random blurbs and beeps.

          Or, maybe, I am just too old for this stuff…

          Oh, and yes, agreed, Autechre, Aphex Twin and the likes have done a lot of this already 20 years ago.

        • Even with years and years of musical training under my belt (or, uh, possibly even because of it), I’m not sure I agree with the central premise of this post. I believe musical creativity can stem from experimentation and not just “knowing tools” or some kind of particular training or theory. I think people probably are investing lots of time… but it’s possible to make a creative expression, in fact, with very *little* time. So what you’re looking for is coherence – I think then that’s a different argument, that there’s something that to you is lacking in formal coherence. That may or may not come from training or time. (You can spend forever in conservatories and not learn how to be a coherent composer.) We would have to back up, decide what your criteria are for determining coherence, and why this is failing.

        • Axel Rigaud

          I hear the argument of tools being not mastered, but then what should we think of audio programmers ? You can master a violon or a synth somehow but computers are constantly evolving, so there’s no defined boundaries you can work inside.
          With modular you eventually get to set some (temporary) boundaries, and it’s not only a matter of budget.

          One of the reason I enjoyed the first video much more than the second, is because Devine challenged my perception of rythm by using “grid-less” cycles. It’s not totally chaotic yet there is some stuff my human ear can assimilate.

          Autechre was close to that already of course, and I think it’s just another iteration that pushes the limits a bit further maybe.

          • DrüMünkey

            Do you happen to have any good links to, say, a talk or something he’s given on the idea of grid-less cycles? I’m really interested in non-sequenced rhythms like Euclidean rhythms etc.

          • Axel Rigaud

            Don’t know much about his techniques, but euclidean rhythms are “sequenced” and work within a grid. I made this small app about them if you happen to understand french : http://axelrigaud.com/euclide/

          • DrüMünkey

            Cool app! Thanks for sharing.

  • Will

    Synth nerd admiration for the sounds coming out of “Mutant Mesh Drums Patch” but “Harmonic Symmetry” might be the first RD thing that I just straight up love as music. Or at least that I knew was his.

  • DrüMünkey

    I’m in no way disparaging this genius, but as you mentioned “theatre” I wonder how many patch cables are for show? Again, I’ve got zero issue with it, because it seems like great marketing/presentation. Just seems like an insane amount of wiring for this. I’m guessing people with OCD tend not to get into modular systems. 🙂