James Devane - Beauty Is Useless Music Album Reviews

James Devane - Beauty Is Useless Music Album Reviews
Pairing undulating synthesizers with cycling grooves, the Bay Area electronic musician’s first album in 14 years calls back to the ambient techno of the late 1990s.

Both solo and alongside Maxwell August Croy in the duo En, James Devane makes ambient music that is soft as moonlight and hard as a struck bell. The drone has typically been his lodestar, piercing through a luminous fog that feels like the sum of all frequencies vibrating in shimmering agreement. But the San Francisco musician’s new album for Croy’s Umeboshi label is different. His first solo LP in 14 years, Beauty Is Useless retains the pastel hues and creamy swirl of his previous work; his billowing atmospheres could still pass for one of Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner’s nebulous seascapes. But this time, he drops a heavy rhythmic anchor in the storm-tossed harbor.
Beauty Is Useless’ nine tracks are all based on a single idea, pairing undulating synthesizers with driving beats. They remain infused by the essence of the drone, but where movement in Devane’s music was previously a matter of micro-particles drifting imperceptibly, these tracks are propelled by muscular kick drums and flickering hi-hats. As rhythmic as they are tonal, chords pulse at regular intervals, like bursts of flame from an industrial furnace.

The division between tone and groove is generally fuzzy. It’s unclear exactly what he’s doing to his source materials, but his processing tricks tend to blur the distinctions between each element in his songs. In the opening “In Your Time,” a slow-motion riff on classic dub techno, the hi-hat pattern manifests as pinpricks of light perforating the shirred fabric of Devane’s chords. “Sudden Oak Death” arrives like a rumor from the opposite end of a drainpipe, its lumpy downbeats shrouded in muck. Only on one track, “Fences In,” do drums, bass, and pads seem obviously to emanate from different devices; for the most part, his textures are vague as grave rubbings.

Beauty Is Useless may inspire a sense of déjà vu. Devane seems intent upon invoking a style of ambient techno that flourished between the late 1990s and the mid 2000s. Taken as a whole, the album feels like a survey of tropes and tendencies that were then in vogue; some of his reference points are remarkably specific. In the slow-motion chug of “In Your Time” and the elliptical loops of “Sudden Oak Death,” there are echoes of Wolfgang Voigt’s M:I:5 alias—a highlight of Profan, Kompakt’s predecessor label—and also the Kompakt-signed Dettinger, both of whom used sampling to generate dizzyingly off-kilter loops. The smeared chords and muffled kicks of “Bygone Trouble” recall Voigt’s more famous alias GAS, while the controlled ecstasy and coiled forward motion of “Somatic Marker” and “Fences In” are reminiscent of yet another Kompakt artist, the Field. “Can’t Be Here,” meanwhile, suggests a tantalizing fusion of Vainqueur, an underrated alchemist from Berlin’s Chain Reaction stable, and Luomo, Vladislav Delay’s deep house alias, pairing the former’s ethereal wash with the latter’s writhing basslines.

It’s refreshing to hear these influences revived in this way. Many of Devane’s touchstones are sounds that have lain dormant for more than a decade; if they haven’t fallen out of fashion, exactly, they have gradually faded into obscurity, and they’re ripe for rediscovery. Like the projects that inspired him, which often were predicated upon chance or error, Devane also seems interested in the aleatory: These tracks feel less like carefully plotted-out compositions than the mechanical output of complex systems. In part, that’s what makes them so hypnotic. What seems on the surface a simple pairing of chord and pulse opens up, upon closer inspection, to reveal a wealth of granular detail. Outwardly static forms give way to perpetually shape-shifting evolutionary processes. In that sense, Devane’s techno plays the same perceptual tricks that his drone music does—every straight line a labyrinth, every dot of solid color a polychrome explosion of possibility.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
James Devane - Beauty Is Useless Music Album Reviews James Devane - Beauty Is Useless Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on September 26, 2022 Rating: 5


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