Reviewed by Joe Colly Source: (Pitchfork)
Back when he was making music with Vex'd, Jamie Teasdale was responsible for some of the more harder-edged, aggressive dubstep out there. With partner Roly Porter, the duo highlighted the genre's grimiest qualities, making industrial tracks like "Thunder" that sounded not unlike high-speed car crashes. But that wasn't his true calling. "I was more the technical guy in Vex'd," Teasdale, now going by Kuedo, recently told the Quietus. "A lot of the musical language came from Roly's side." And so it turns out that Teasdale's own musical language is actually quite dreamy and even romantic. His debut LP, Severant, brings together expressive synth work and cinematic sweep with a degree of nuance and, well, prettiness that's frankly kind of surprising.
Teasdale cleverly combines a few different genres here. First, through the use of vintage synth equipment, he conjures sci-fi soundscapes similar to the type deployed by Oneohtrix Point Never and Laurel Halo. With Vangelis' 1982 Blade Runner score an obvious touchstone, he layers nostalgia-hued synths in swirling, evocative patterns. But where guys like OPN like to leave these sounds untethered, Teasdale grounds them in the wobble and kick of dance music. Hearing these generally spacey tones backed by drums is cool on its own, but it's the kind of beats he chooses that really sets this record apart. Ignoring the cavernous drops of dubstep, Teasdale pulls instead from the faster, tinnier percussion of Chicago footwork and Lex Luger-style hip-hop production.
This unlikely pairing creates variations in speed, color, and texture that make Severant a dynamic listen. There's constant tension between an otherworldly, futuristic feeling and this more stuttering energy that keeps the tracks earthbound. Take "Scissors" for an example: Teasdale floats an airy, alien organ over quick-hitting bass and machine gun hi-hats, and the result is visceral, like standing under a helicopter taking off; at the same time, there's an eerily peaceful sensation to it. He also shows a good amount of range, going moody on "Seeing the Edges", darkly menacing on "Flight Path", and even R&B-sexy with closer "Memory Rain". In each case the tracks avoid one-note flatness by spreading the sounds in several different directions at once.
At 15 songs, Severant is long and occasionally becomes drifty, but at its best, the album is a confident, even inspired, solo debut. There are stretches where it feels like you're hearing sounds being put together for the first time, which is something that can't be said of many artists in an increasingly crowded and diluted electronic-music field. And it's not just that Teasdale cracks open a new micro-strain of music here-- call it the midpoint between experimental techno and the hip-hop street banger-- it's that he does it with a lot of warmth and nuance. Tonally these tracks are a world away from the aggro crunch of Vex'd. For other artists, there's plenty of value in that style, but Severant feels like the kind of music that this guy is intended to make.
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