As one half of Vex’d, Jamie Teasdale played a substantial role in the development of the dubstep scene. Like many of his contemporaries, he has veered out into territory less easy to classify or define. Severant is his debut album under the Kuedo moniker. Although markedly less fragmented, it shares with Zomby’s recent Dedication a somewhat fuzzy, hallucinogenic quality and a desire to fuse the mechanics of electronic music with something warmer and more empathetic. Teasdale has suggested that this music represents the point of connection between reality and the world of the imagination. Given this stated aim, Severant is an appropriately vivid and involving work.
Towards the end of his recent book Retromania, music writer Simon Reynolds discusses a sense of nostalgia for those vaunting visions of a future that never quite arrived. Much of Severant has a lush, exotic quality, with a sound that brings to mind the hyper-detailed imaginings seen on the covers of old science fiction novels. Immersed in this music, it is easy to imagine a scene of arid deserts, craters and radical new cities towering above the landscape. Some of the track titles even suggest as much. Ant City hints at a dystopian scenario in which the hierarchy of life has been subverted by insect triumph.
There is certainly a retro-futurist tendency currently at play in a lot of British electronic music, particularly in the preoccupation with the soundscapes of Vangelis. Once, these influences would have been thoroughly unfashionable, but somehow they now seem to be at the heart of a zeitgeist. Teasdale does not shy away from the grand, cinematic musical gesture (Flight Path even references the Blade Runner soundtrack directly) but, at the same time, Severant still feels like the work of a rigorous, disciplined artist.
Beneath all the questing synths and transcendent mock-brass pads is still a producer in thrum to the fidgety intricacy of Chicago footwork or UK bass music. Particularly brilliant is the way Ascension Phase pits rising arpeggios against stuttering, disruptive beats before finally settling into an angular half time groove. It feels like the moment of relative calm is well earned. Then there’s the unstoppable fluttering that underpins the otherwise inescapably repetitive cross rhythms of Vectoral. Whilst this music certainly represents a diversion from Teasdale’s musical past, what is often most fascinating is the way he has integrated his longstanding passions into this new sonic architecture.
Severant may not be the sound of a genuine future – but it is at least very much the sound of now, somehow divided between fond nostalgia and a tentative innovation. Whilst the solo work of Teasdale’s former musical partner in Vex’d Roly Porter has adopted a decidedly apocalyptic and disturbing hue, Teasdale’s work as Kuedo is more melodic and ingratiating. More melancholic than mechanical, Severant is a testament to the strength of the human imagination.