With a sound tough to pin down, Southeast London's Coby Sey has offered a transportive take on hip-hop and spoken word-inspired club music since 2015. A current host on London's NTS Radio, Sey has now released his long-in-development debut album, Conduit, via off-kilter left-field techno imprint AD 93. Recorded between 2017 - 2022, Conduit follows up the artist's prolific collaborations CV and his well-received debut Ep, Rivers (2017). Before Rivers, Sey's mystifying work was felt in an array of diverse collaborations, including on Tirzah's eclectic 2018 album, Devotion, scoring Steve McQueen's Small Axe anthology, and frequent work with the likes of Brother May and Mica Levi in the form of the CURL collective, as well as songwriting for the likes of Kelly Lee Owens and Babyfather. With Conduit, Sey offers a reflective, genre-less journey through the trials and tribulations of Southeast London, doing so while writing, performing, producing, arranging, mixing, and providing instrumentations across the release. Through a singular atmosphere of claustrophobia and dread, set against the possibilities of open conversation, Conduit effectively sets its own meditative world of sensory connection.
Throughout his work, Coby Sey has been heavily inspired by the frequently devastating realities of community - from 2017's Grenfell Tower tragedy to the legacy of his Lewisham community's struggle against National Front racists of the late 70/early 80s. With this decades-long legacy of grit, unity, and perseverance, Sey's post-grime-esque storytelling finds frequent moments of clarity amongst the chaos of first-world class divisions. Of course, much of Conduit was also created throughout the pandemic. And, though not explicitly inspired by its isolation and the impending sense of deed (at least in those early days), Conduit does interject the collective community's fighting spirit with his own, particularly across the hallucinatorily claustrophobic lead single and the album's most traditionally structured track, Permeated Secrets ("Yes I'm aware of this pandemic moment's a given / Not just on anyone's own yet why / Should we submit to a faceless /Body whose lack of trust is ageless?"), or the ambient-inspired Onus ("To make it through tough times, it is our onus / Been inside, now we gotta know this / We need to support each other and focus).
Both those tracks work well into the conversational tone of the album as a piece of communication, with a distinct start and end point coming in the form of subdued, glitchy album-opener Etym and its spiritual climax, the adamant, free-jazz marathon of Response, respectively. Interjected between comes an album for a world in the throws of transition. A restlessly energetic and an ode to city life and the power to the people - perhaps the best example of which comes off album-midpoint, the vocal layered Dial Square (Confront) as Sey proclaims, "Think I'm gonna sit here and be ordered like a guest here."
Fused from the remnants of discarded trip-hop and smelted with the heavy machinations of abstract Techno, Conduit is simultaneously a testament to influence and history as it is a transcendent dedication to the power of balance.