Kuedo - Severant (Planet Mu)

Severant is the debut album from Kuedo, formally known as Jamie Teasdale, one half of dubstep duo Vex'd. Unlike the dense and claustrophobic industrial sounds that group made their name producing this work comes from an altogether more emotive place; eschewing the rhythmic aggression and snarling sub-bass that regularly permeated a typical Vex'd release for an altogether gentler sound.

Released Nov 14th, 2011 via Planet Mu / By Matthew Bayfield
Kuedo - Severant (Planet Mu) Kuedo first appeared with the Dream Sequence EP (again released through Planet Mu) in 2010 and it was a something of a sonic left turn in production style. Forgoing almost any of the dubstep construction template Teasdale had become renowned for the piece was much more in tune to the restlessly complex hip-hop compositions of artists such as Teebs and Flying Lotus, and also had a great deal of influence from spacey 8 bit or 'squelch' productions in the mould of Starkey, himself another Planet Mu regular. The resultant sound was a fairly unique cross pollination of hip-hop and the many mutant strains of what most people have given to tagging with the umbrella term of 'UK bass music.'

Severant, coming just under a year later, shows that this left turn was no mere whim or attempt to crest the wave of a popular sound in electronic music, and finds Kuedo not so much consolidating but redefining elements of that sound whilst bringing new techniques to his production. The 'new' just spoken of however turns out not to be new at all in technological terms, as for Severant, Teasdale has opted to fashion the majority of the albums' sounds through the manual playing of analogue synthesizers. A bold move, particularly in a music genre where the majority of its consumers are constantly worried about finding the newest, most unique sounds. However, it has clearly paid off in Severant's case, as the album carries one of the most unique sounds heard in recent time. As you may expect from any album of largely instrumental tracks made up primarily of analogue synths the works of Vangelis are an obvious point of reference, particularly the more cinematic compositions, and most obviously his instantly recognisable Blade Runner score, which is directly referenced in the urgent surge of the track 'Flight Path.' Severant also feels, in tracks such as 'Vectoral' very close in execution to the more electronically orientated works of Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, particularly the soundtrack to Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, with which it shares both a meditative feel and great sense of atmosphere generated frequently through it's intense sense of space.

It is certainly the synths that bring the album much of its power, not to discredit Dream Sequence in any way, but the analogue component of Severant somehow brings the album a genuine sense of emotional weight and warmth, particularly in tracks such as 'Whisper Fate' with it's absorbing melodies and the swelling tones of 'Ant City' which is certainly a standout track in terms of atmosphere. Indeed it is no coincidence that many of the reference points for this album seem to be film scores or more compositionally structured works, as this album is clearly intended to be sampled as a whole concept rather than a collection of individual tracks, and in this respect it carries an extremely cinematic element. This widescreen leaning reaches it's peak on 'Truth Flood', the keys on which sound as if they are nearly lifted wholesale from 'Adagio For Strings', the orchestral piece made famous as the theme tune for Vietnam war film Platoon. The only downside to this approach of course is that, at three quarters of an hour long, the album may not get the full attention it needs without any obvious tracks to hook in casual listeners. There is, however, also the feeling that Kuedo is looking to express himself and develop his work on a personal level as opposed to wooing over the music buying public and storming the charts en route so perhaps it is a strength that the album cannot be easily broken down from its complete form

If the synths are what give Severant a strong foundation of reference and style then it is the drum programming that provides both a unique identity and helps set it apart from being a mere facsimile of early eighties electronic soundtracks. Throughout the whole album the percussion is used more like an undercoat on a painting than a key detail. Whereas in dubstep or hip-hop the rhythm tends to lead the piece, here it is a constant, regulated and tightly syncopated sequence of hits peppered with sub kicks to fill out the lower registers of the record. At first it can feel a little jarring, definitely foreign, but after adjusting to such a strange application this constant backdrop proves to be one of the most unique points of the album. A prime example can be seen in 'Scissors', the percussion of which combined with the thick sub wobbles that sheer across the track leaves the listener with a sound something like a distant helicopter heard through thick plumes of smoke. Again it generates another very cinematic style of imagery, and surely this is no accident. The resultant combination feels like a further exploration of the sounds Aphex Twin has made in the past; particularly his fusing of drum and bass speed rhythms and classical music on 'Girl-Boy Song'. Again, although it invokes these style of comparisons, the album never quite sounds like it is impersonating any other artist. The extremely modern digitally crafted sounds, traditionally recorded analogue pieces and the altogether more classically orchestrated arrangements, when all applied correctly, leave Severant as not only Kuedo's most defining work to date (which is a worryingly high watermark considering this is his first full length) but as one of the most unique and accomplished long players in the ever more oversaturated electronic market of the last few years.