“Going in and across circles,/ from the vestry of the area I know most,/ not fitted in despite being,/ from round the way,/ shooting snaps in sounds and words,/ fermented and curled,/ straight up,” reads the poetic text accompanying the video for Coby Sey‘s equal parts introspective and gritty song ‘All Change.’
Released on his Whities 010: Transport for Lewisham via Whities Records on April 7, the five-track EP is the South London artists’ debut solo work, having also previously collaborated and produced for Tirzah and Klein, among others. Elements of jazz, grime and hip-hop are re-worked into new textures where grit and abrupt sounds feel anaesthetized. Somewhere between the states of sleep and wakefulness, the music moves along at a dreamlike pace.
Both videos released so far, ‘All Change’ and ‘Active (Peak),’ mirror this sense of movement that feels both ambient, yet pierced. A melancholic downbeat groove is threaded through the EP, bringing a unique pace to the genre and experience of club music.
Sey hosts an early Saturday evening radio show on NTS where he shares his influence of “sedated hip-hop, drone, ambience and other glacial and sludge sounds.” He also works and collaborates with other South East London musicians and artists, co-founding the club collective, label and community Curl, alongside Micachu, and emcee Brother May in 2016. They regularly with other artists, including Kwake Bass, Suitman Jungle, Raisa K along with TØNE, Klein and Tirzah.
At the upcoming Curl-hosted performance at London’s Serpentine Pavilion Park Night, on September 29, Sey himself will be playing new material specific to the space with his live group, alongside Micachu, Brother May, and Sudanese opera singer Mohamed, as well as an installation by Chats and a dance performance by Bianca Scout. Meanwhile, ahead of the show, the producer talks to AQNB about the trees and chicken shops populating his recent EP inspired by South London and public transport, as well as the impulse behind bringing together the multi-disciplinary artists of Curl.
**In terms of music and community, is there anything specifically unique to the South London scene that you notice or can put your finger on?
Coby Sey: More trees… as in both tree-trees and rolling trees and an abundance of fried chicken shops, ha… but in terms of music ‘scene’… not sure… I should be qualified to speak on it as it’s the place I’ve resided the most in my lifetime, but I don’t know. Maybe I kind of embody that and it shows itself in how I speak or sound. Or how I dress or conduct myself to the point that it’s second nature. I’m not sure if I can review it myself unless I spend a long time outside my regular environment.
Personally, I get on with things and let what I do speak more for itself. However, maybe there’s a genuine uncontrived interest for people from different schools/practices here to work together. I think the lineage of sound system culture is one of the many things that’s linked people of different practices to work and co-exist together, making things happen.
**You collaborate a lot and work on events with the interdisciplinary community of Curl, do you work in other mediums other than sound?
CS: I paint and draw regularly. I’ve not publicly published any of my work in a professional manner yet. We’ll see. I’ve worked briefly designing artwork for record releases: Nothing To Fear by Dobie, one for Early (formerly Trudie Dawn Smith), whose album is to come hopefully, and The Yellow by Tenstoreys. I’m not sure if this counts but I design and develop websites for people and companies for years, some of which are more ‘expressive’ (for art) than others.
**Can you talk a bit about the concept behind your Whities EP?
CS: Whities 010: Transport for Lewisham is one of my attempts to sonically distill how my area has informed me subconsciously and also using my area, Lewisham, to metaphorically reflect on several matters of the heart. It took me almost three years to complete after obsessing with creating a sound I can call mine.
I lost a lot of sleep on this but it was something that I needed out of my system. Tasker, Tic and the label were totally accommodating to my vision and way of working. I kind of see it as my first album despite it being approximately 16-minutes long.
**The sound feels both sedated yet textured, weaving many genres into a new tapestry of your own. Can you talk about the musical influences and different genres that have inspired it/you as an artist?
CS: I really like listening to albums by artists who have created a world with their own sonic landscape. For me, music is sonic architecture. I like the balance of striving to be the best at what one does and also embrace being in the unknown and fresh-faced. In hindsight, the catalogue number of my release, 010, reflects me finding that balance. Being obsessed with Miles Davis, Prince, MBV, Mariah, Meshell, the Wu and countless others from a young age definitely informed me.
Special mention to Kwes, my older brother; Mica Levi, my older sister from another; Tirzah… so many to name… family, Raisa, May, DB… also shout out to Liz Harris.
**What are five of your obsessions right now ?
CS: In no order:
– Malt drinks made by multiple brewers
– Production shows i.e. Rhythm Roulette, Against the Clock, Pensado’s Place (great YouTube shows but they need to step up their efforts by getting on more producers who are women and non-binary)
– Eating well, notably not drinking Lucozade**