Review Summary: Severant is where grime gives way to something more gorgeous, more expressive; and as a result, something much more eye-opening.
As one half of the aggressive and industrial-tinged dubstep outfit Vex’d, Jamie Teasdale unwittingly became a champion for the expansive crowd of hard-edged bass enthusiasts who craft their music like car crashes, where everything just sounds like a tangled web of bent steel. But now shifting identities to the new moniker of Kuedo, Teasdale is eager to re-invent himself as a futurist pioneer, now having little to do with the aggro frustration of dubstep. What was hinted at on his breakthrough track ‘Star Fox’ and what Severant
ends up fulfilling is Jamie’s love for the subtle and the sublime. Vex’d’s sophomore effort Cloud Seed
hinted at this more delicate approach, but Teasdale’s move to solo shores has proven to be the ultimate catalyst for this desire to emerge. Severant
is where grime gives way to something more gorgeous, more expressive; and as a result, something much more eye-opening.
At the heart of Severant
lies a quiet yet persistent notion of looking forward, of delirious imagination and wide-eyed wonderment. Densely layered synthesizers and weighty pads help bring this idea to a realistic fulfillment, using the varied works of Vangelis and the likes of Boards of Canada as touchstones to help form his own distinct movement. And there are times here when nods to the “intelligent dance music” scene became accurately appropriate, as swirling strands of whisper-thick synths tied down in nostalgia cascade over the tumbling and steep percussion; in fact, the track ‘Salt Lake Cuts’ wouldn’t sound too astray propped up within BoC’s Twosim
extended play. But what sets Kuedo apart from more mythical counterpoints is his desire to anchor the swirling ambiguity and confine it within tightly constructed beats. He grounds them within the realm of dance music, and it’s where they’re pulled thin over more uptempo slices of melancholia that Severant
finds itself rising above the tired ambiguity of the idm scene.
And yet for such a simple thing, it’s the beats themselves rather than what fills them that ends up defining the album as a true gem. Whether he‘s picking apart the raucous din of booming hip hop abrasiveness, or latching onto the frantic and jittery Chicago footwork scene, the dynamic that forms at the meeting point between such wholly separate identities becomes something all-encompassing and suitably unavoidable. But as forceful as Teasdale braces his tracks, they’re not so over powering that they accidentally erase the almost invisible affinity that powers them. They’re still hazy and dreamlike in appearance, like sketchy images of alien vistas and barren dystopias. They’re lazily composed, more blurry at the edges than clearly illuminated, yet still edgy and invigorating. There’s also a set amount of tension caught up in the wave tide of this album, as everything that tries to drift away finds itself tethered dangerously too close to the ground.
‘Salt Lake Cuts’ becomes another perfect example of this, as the delicacy finds itself under threat from the pummeling onslaught of the boom bap pilfering, the drunken melody distorting under the caffeinated and fidgety percussion. ‘Scissors’ apes this notion by throwing the serenity into a vortex until it reaches the point where it seems to shimmer so fast that it throws everything around it into a similar cycle. He changes moods at the drop of a hat as well, going from the drugged out bliss of ‘Vectoral’ with its chimebox pining to the dark menacing tantrum of ‘Flight Path’ that flutters through a wave of early acid flashbacks. He chimes in with his own thoughts on the current “glitch hop” phenomenon with ‘Ascension Phase’ and even tries his hand at crooning r&b with closer ‘Memory Rain’. And somewhere within these wholly different yet deliberately placed variances you find the heart of this album, warm yet still distant. It shows that Kuedo may be more than just a brief reprieve or a minor dalliance for Teasdale, but that this incarnation might be the identity he was always destined to become. Because beauty comes thick and fast with this album, and even though it’s taken wholesale from more popular sources, here it feels like we’re only now hearing it for the first time.