DEVAULT Wades Into Cool Dark Waters on JADE EP
At the opening of the JADE EP video, when three well-coiffed thugs, in black blazers over fitted designer shirts, have enough of staring and smoking, and begin to march together towards their vandalistic mission, the purpose of DEVAULT’s new EP JADE comes into focus. I could do without the glamorization of smoking, which seems to be a revived trend in dance music these days, especially since the amorphous sound design coalesces into something badass. We were warned.
“Hello, welcome to JADE,” the computer program squelched at us. “JADE is a 13-minute experience of darkness, energy and anger.” Leaving aside the fact that anger is a type of energy, according to Psychology Today, and that darkness is an energy that apparently makes up 2/3rds of the universe, it is a concise introduction to the terrific dance noir saga that is about to unfold.
This has more elements of 50s new wave than 80s despair. A beautiful girl wearing angel wings pops up in the middle of the sl0w-mo-rewind destruction of a car. Our consciousness, lusting after fraught romances, is taunted with a soft but piercing female voice: “I saw you the other night. / You were with someone else. / I’ll never tell.” It’s sinister grooving, poppy pilling, crisp drumming — definitely danceable. Why they wait until the end of the bat-to-car scenario to remove the dude from the trunk to brainwash him is beyond me. But maybe if you watch you will have a theory.
As you are restrained — eyelids-forced open, electrodes to the temple — through the four tracks, Mafia, Blade, Runway and Rainstorm, you wonder, am I being subtly brainwashed by watching this? Is this Geffen Records’ response to the Columbia signing of Gesaffelstein? That’s the elephant in the room here. The album is definitely in the same vein. It’s more commercial sounding (and, dare I say better?) than the latest from that French record producer. Gesaffelstein’s Hyperion album drew an underwhelming response in the days after its release from diehard fans, something they seem to have been forgotten in the wake of his buzzy Coachella performance (and excessive post-show cigarette consumption) The Verge said “tricked minds.”
Orange County’s DEVAULT shot to international acclaim with his assistance on Rhianna’s “Sex With Me,” which peaked at the top spot on the Billboard Dance charts. “I loved it,” Diplo said of his production, “ — played the hell out of it.” DEVAULT’s worked with Lorde, 6lack, Matt Maeson and Bipolar Sunshine and probably lost count of his streaming numbers after he hit a million plays. He knows how to zero in on popular electronic emotion while letting more nuanced synth sounds hang a little. Billboard labelled his remix of DJ Snake’s “A Different Way” one of the top ten remixes of 2017. “Nothing But You (feat. Donnie Sloan & Ricky Ducati)” is upbeat house of the sort you might hear from a DJ like MK. His remix of Sabrina Claudio Ft. Khalid “Don't Let Me Down” is, for sure, influencer-friendly. The fact DEVAULT has gone from post-R&B/dubstep to UK Garage to pop — and excelled at all of them — makes his choice of a trendy melodic techno record all the more defensible.
To give you a sense of the space this man is currently conquering, just look at the artists he highlighted in his recent Diplo & Friends mix — Moderat, San Holo and Boys Noize. Oh, and Gesaffelstein. The concept of the JADE EP, of a computer program you can interact with, is a fun one. And who doesn’t love glitchy visuals. But, let’s be honest, it’s probably the angel in the white shirt getting rained on at the end that will snag most people’s attention.