Just found this thread, interesting read. I can tell a lot of parallels with Burial's approach and mine.
I started off as a radio producer using Cool Edit Pro, way back when. Played guitar but this opened up a world of new things to learn to make music. Just by using loops (sampleswap is a beast!) and chopping them up, reversing them, slapping loads of fx on them etc I was able to create some pretty cool stuff.
Of course this led to discovering Ableton, which brought a bit of order to everything - with sequencing, quantization etc everything became more regimented.
Problem now is that I get 'blinking curser syndrome' - I'm a journalist by trade and sometimes starting the story is the hardest thing. Staring at that little curser blinking away while you think "how the hell do I start this article"... Same thing happens now, I have all these DAWs, great equipment etc but can I start a song properly?! Can I take a passage of music and make it into a song? Not any more.
Using Cool Edit there were restrictions but it made you work around them, almost in spite of them. Everything Burial said about working 'visually' rang true too.
Might give Adobe Audition a try...use Ableton for instruments but manually place stuff in Audition without a grid.
On another note - Ableton Push is pretty decent. Good for those 'blinking curser' moments...