There are a number of optical illusions on Kuedo’s Tumblr, images that trick the mind’s eye into seeing more than is physically there: dimensions materialise, depths are insinuated and motion is simulated. They act as challenges to the rational mind, forcing a questioning of the senses. Perception as reality is the subject of Kuedo’s phenomenal album ‘Severant’, a highly personal essay that, in delving so deep, has something to say to everyone.
From the defiant grandness of Vangelis to the rattling adrenaline of footwork, its reference points are wide. Yet for all its complexity, ‘Severant’ is not a difficult listen. Quite the opposite, in fact: it’s one of the most pleasurable-on-the-ears releases this year. And while its aesthetics – from the 1920s referencing cover art to the sci-fi-esque song titles – have made it rich ground for the long-running retro-vs-future music debate, including Adam Harper’s excellent review on this site, it’s ultimately of no consequence to ‘Severant’. For this album is one that resides in a place where past, present and future all exist at once in comfortable tension. Its impulse is neither to reach forwards or backwards but within. The realm Kuedo explores on ‘Severant’ is internal, and in concentrating so he illustrates an alternative reality that is freer than any other articulated this year.
“Between reality, the current moment and a kind of drifting, imaginative space,” is how he described the feeling he was going for with ‘Severant’ in an interview with Martin ‘Blackdown’ Clark earlier this year. It’s an entirely different psychic and temporal space to that of dubstep, a scene he helped birth as Vex’d. Instead of the abrasively, impatiently social landscape he stalked in his previous incarnation, ‘Severant’ traverses the meandering path of an inner monologue, flaring and subsiding at will like unspoken emotion beneath the surface.
In a world built on sharing, this is an album about what is often not shared. On ‘Severant’, Kuedo turns the most socially awkward of emotions into something strong, truthful and beautiful. It gives space and room to those feelings that are usually kept squirreled away, less they pick away at our public persona. Disgust, boredom, regret, fear and paranoia all live here, ebbing and flowing alongside warmer, more hopeful emotions in the most organic of ways.
Little wonder so many have remarked on how well Kuedo’s music chimes with travelling. It is often only in transit that we are most still: ignoring those around us to create a private space in a public place with an iPod, Kindle or a game and our overlapping thoughts. There is definitely something night-bus about Kuedo’s world, due in part to the reflective – in many senses – quality of ‘Severant’. In listening, a similar sensation to staring out a vehicle window at night is aroused: a feeling of being within but detached; focus fixed but the images in the line of vision shifting rapidly; a jumbled reality forming as reflections of the interior merge with the scene beyond the glass.