California-raised producer Sage DeVault, better known to the world as Devault, has been making moves recently. He has become an in-demand remixer for big pop artists like Rihanna, 6LACK, Billie Ellish and DJ Snake. His music has taken a turn recently to something darker and 80’s influenced. On his new JADE EP, he channels the darkness that resides in all of us into a four-track project. It is built around brooding melodies that match dark, chugging bass and 80’s-inspired synths. It is powerful, raw and sinister, bridging the gap between dark synthwave and electro. With the new project in mind, we asked Devault to break down the EP in the latest edition of Director’s Cut.
Normally when I approach making music, it’s very free and spontaneous, and it’s more focused on those “special moments” rather than a specific goal in mind. When it came to JADE, however, specifically the first song "MAFIA," I wanted to take a completely opposite stance. The goal in the very beginning was clear and pre thought out: to take my sound that I’ve been known for and give it a fully dark makeover.
I envisioned myself as the curator for a Alexander Mcqueen fashion show, and my music would dictate the pace and intensity of the runway. "MAFIA" is just that. It has a stomping rhythm behind my typical horn synth that I always use but more sinister this time, less melodic. Almost all synths on this record were from the Repro U-He VST, which essentially mimics classic 70-80’s synth sounds. I wanted everything to sound raw, heavy distortion and little to any polish. I felt like my past work was so intimate and warm, and I wanted to release all this energy inside of me in a way that goes beyond my typical process. MAFIA sets the tone for this project, and immediately casts you into the experience.
"BLADE," funny enough, takes immediate inspiration from Blade Runner. I imagined a dystopian cop chase of someone who is both a hero and a villain. It’s hard to sympathize with yet hard to not root for. I think the song "BLADE" accomplishes this idea, where the music is continually creating tension, and then climaxes on the second drop. Again, all the synths were made in the Repro U-He VST, and had so much fun playing around with sequencers to create this constant loop like feel to the record. The “drop” sections were made last, what you hear in the break was something I probably sat with for a few days, debating the best way to really give this record life. The piercing lead synth cuts right through the mix, and felt "BLADE" was the perfect name for a song that both takes inspiration from an 80’s classic and its soundscape.
This is easily the most intense record, and probably the one I’m most proud of creating. To be honest, when it comes to intense club records, I’m normally at a loss. I typically focus on creative melodies and cinematic moments, which help carry most of the weight of my records. With "RUNWAY" I tested myself, and put the focus on energy more than anything. And outside of music, I was feeling incredibly angry at the time. I felt too comfortable in what I was doing, and angry at certain things not going right in my life/career, so I felt like I really needed a record to let it out. From the get go, "RUNWAY" is fierce, dark, and in your face. I spent a good three hours sampling and resampling the drop lead, to create a good sense of motion but still maintain this dark attitude. In my Ableton folder for this project, I have about 12 drop ideas. After a bit of trial and error, I feel like I made the right choice. It’s the most clean cut song, and definitely is a step above the three other records.
This record was made a year before I approached the idea of JADE and the other three songs. This is the most experimental record I’ve made and felt like a perfect fit into this project as an outro. All the sounds in this song were made on this unique VST called Synplant, and I sprinkled in rain and thunder textures throughout because I felt it was fitting to the tone of the record. The drop sections feel like a downpour of sounds, like a heavyweight being thrown off my chest. It’s a send off into the next project I’m currently making, that follows the same line as JADE but a slightly new soundscape. Being able to release records like "RAINSTORM" and JADE as a whole feels really fulfilling. The focus was on the instrumentation. There were no vocals, no “stream friendly” guidelines, just dark, raw music.