Review: Coby Sey – Conduit
National Music Reviews
Coby Sey = Tricky + Morcheeba + Marvin Gaye
London’s Coby Sey is a master of atmosphere. He understands the limitations and dimensions of a song and knows precisely when to inject claustrophobia or spatial turns to create mood, tone and vibes like the turning of a screw. Sey has recently been a secret weapon behind the scenes, working for such artists as Tirzah, Mica Levi and Kelly Lee Owens. With his new album, Conduit, Sey steps out to the center stage with his new full-length album. On that stage he is mostly alone—with the exception of a few guests musicians, Conduit is written, performed, produced, arranged, mixed and engineered by Sey himself.
Sey sings in a spoken-word, slightly rapped style with a hint of old-school trip-hop and British soul. Throughout the record, Sey delivers his vocals over a consistent, vibrating synth with a touch of static and a drum machine that pops and claps and simmers and bubbles. Sey uses noises like chuka-chuka-chuka and thwip-thwip-thwip to build tension like an approaching locomotive. Some tracks meander in heavy moods, while others explode using saxophones accelerated like speed jazz. Everything is in the mix; the whole record feels immediate and right now.
There is a sense of doom to Conduit that never truly arrives—it just creeps around the edges and ends up haunting things in heavier degrees. “Inside truths are out,” Sey deadpans on the opening track, “Etym,” hinting at intentional, subtle verbal violence that Sey is more than willing to unleash. On the track “Dial Square (Confront)” Sey sings, “Don’t try and come at me acting like some lackey / You act like you’re lacking on some fundamental faculties.” Sey fights the power over an oscillating synth line. There is a casual intensity to this song, and the anger within it sounds absolutely gorgeous.
Conduit also delivers hope. On “Onus,” Sey verbalizes an inside/outside vibe that mirrors emerging from COVID lockdown: “Been inside now we got our notice / We need to support each other and focus / All we got is us in the moments / Make it through tough times it is our onus.” Sey repeats these two refrains as the song fades out.
Coby Sey’s Conduit speaks to the exact moments the artist is living in and moves the senses like shock waves. Conduit is a great record. It would be criminal to miss it. –Russ Holsten
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