The sound design mage breathes new life into his IDM-informed music.
Still, Sort\Lave doesn't give you an easy way in. The opener, "Microscopium Recurse," is 11 minutes of maddening chaos. (It reminds me of a hyperactive version of Rashad Becker's solo work.) It's barely musical, but it's a feast for more adventurous ears, challenging prospective listeners and likely delighting Devine fans. "Revsic" adds a discernible yet still hectic rhythm, showing a method to the madness once you start to wrap your head around it. If you make it past Sort\Lave's opening gauntlet, you'll be rewarded with some of the most richly melodic music of Devine's career. "Astra" is soft and beautiful, with supple percussive textures that sound like they're melting in the heat. The closing track, "Takara," is essentially a lullaby, touching on the melodic peak of early '90s IDM. "Oustrue" has a stuttering pulse you could tap your foot too.
Devine tends to tinker with every sound he creates, but on Sort\Lave he relinquishes some control to his various modular patches. As a result, the album often feels a little more organic, even if it still sounds like it's made from alien matter. On "Sentik Pin," the drums are in constant flux, like geese flying in and out of formation. "Brux"'s eventual descent into chaos, far from the inscrutable rush of Devine's past work, now feels narrative and purposeful. He has sometimes been so far ahead of the pack that his music has likely confounded most listeners. But on Sort\Lave he finds a more balanced sound, where brain-scrambling delights are tempered by a newfound emotional connection.