I found a letter written by Philip K. Dick on the internet the other day regarding a preview of the “Blade Runner” movie the author had happened upon. In the letter – written to the production company – Dick, the author of the short story which “Blade Runner” was based on, describes what he saw as “this is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddamn convincing…”. The reason for bringing this up is that Jamie Teasdale – aka Kuedo – has admitted to have been influenced and inspired by “Blade Runner” and other futurist works of art in the making of his debut album, “Severant”, for Planet Mu. I spent a fascinating couple of hours talking to him about the album and its genesis for an interview recently and having found this letter shortly after I was struck by how the quote I mention from it fits the music on “Severant” perfectly – it is super realist music.
Kuedo is perhaps best known as one half of Vex’d, a duo whose formative releases on Planet Mu in the mid to late 00s defined the scope of what was possible within bass music before the term even existed. While pigeonholed among the dubstep explosion of 05-07, Vex’d was always much more than just that. Theirs was a sound built from molten metal and bright red lava and it will never again be bettered – despite the lamentations of fans (and I include myself in those). Thing is, and this becomes apparent the more you listen to “Severant”, with this release Jamie has fully severed (unintended pun) the links between his previous incarnation and his current and future work. To listen to “Severant” with Vex’d as a reference point is of course normal yet the best thing you can do to fully enjoy it is to drop these expectations at the door and embrace the work on “Severant” as something new from an artist you’ve never come across before. Even the work that led to it – the EPs released as Jamie Vex’d and then as Kuedo on Planet Mu in the last two years – bear little resemblance to the sonic landscape on offer here.
At first I found myself finding a nostalgic quality to the music on “Severant”, though this stems more from the sound palette Kuedo draws upon than a real intent on his part. The music is primarily constructed using rhythmic cues from juke/footwork and trap music – intense drum patterns, hi hat rushes and syncopation that verges between manic and exciting – combined with melodies played using primarily sweeping synth sounds which most obviously reference the like of Vangelis. Unsurprisingly it was Vangelis who composed the soundtrack to “Blade Runner”. It’s those synth sounds and their innate sonic qualities that evoke nostalgia, and even melancholia at times, on tracks like “Scissors” or “Truth Flood”, yet on repeated listens you start to see past those obvious emotions the music brings up to something much more “real” and beautiful.
Trap music, juke and 80s synths might seem like an odd combination on paper yet Kuedo makes it into a whole that is quite simply irresistible. It is detailed, authentic and oh so goddamn convincing. This is honest music, the sound of an artist who has found his voice amid the chaos and noise of 21st century music making and promoting.
As far as highlights go I find it hard to pinpoint any one track to put above the rest, especially because this is an album that deserves and rewards repeated listens as a whole. It’s a coherent sonic story that reveals new secrets and sides on every listen. If I was pressed though I would say “Scissors” is one of my favourites by a long stretch, its melody the most beautiful earworm I’ve found recently. “Salt Lake Cuts” is another highlight, an epic ride across night time skies aboard a futuristic hover machine yet to be invented but which feels oh so real in your mind.
“Severant” is very much a headphone listen – it’s a journey defined by your mind’s pictures as the music evolves just as much as it is an intense ride when confined to your ears only as you walk around a city or travel or sit at home taking it all in. And yet despite this – and Jamie’s own claim that it wasn’t meant as dancefloor music – a lot of the tracks on there have a quality that works just as well in a club environment. I’ve already seen it in effect in the last few weeks in clubs in the UK and I’ve no doubt some of the tracks will become firm favourites of the more discerning and challenging DJs.
Old fans of Jamie’s previous incarnations will find much to be surprised about in “Severant”, and as I said letting go of previous expectations will only increase the enjoyment they’ll find in the music. As for new listeners there is plenty on “Severant” to discover and fall in love with especially if you have any interest in the themes and music that shaped its making: science fiction, futurism, trap music, and 80s synth music. With the end of the year drawing near it’s safe to say that Jamie has delivered one of the opus of the year as far as electronic music goes. A trip worth taking a hundred times over.