Seefeel at Printworks London

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Seefeel play at the Printworks on the 25th as part of a Jon Hopkins showcase, along with people like Lone and Daniel Avery. I am looking forward to being able to walk home from a gig like this. I can’t remember where I heard Seefeel first, possibly in a long-buried indie record shop I used to go to a bit, where one guy working at the counter was less of a dickhead than the others and actually talked to you. This was back in the day where if you wanted to hear something you were interested in, you had to ask the shop staff to play it. Dial up internet hadn’t quite made it to my suburb and no radio station was playing the music I wanted to hear. I was more into stuff like the Orb and Aphex in my early to mid teenage years rather than pure dancefloor-driven material. So it was probably either the “sine bubble embossed dub” remix of Plainsong or the “AFX slow mix” of Time To Find Me that initially reeled me in. Back in 1993 I’d taken LSD and Ecstasy together for the first time, and kept on doing it with worrying regularity, and their music just seemed to perfectly fit into my physical and mental state with that combo. I interpreted the long drawn out dubby FX with Sarah Peacock’s looped, treated vocals as both blissfully physically ecstatic and deeply psychologically introspective.

Their debut LP “Quique” was also released in 1993. At the time I recall the reviews of it being referred to as the “electronic successor to Loveless” but that just struck me as a lazy broad stroke. It wasn’t really like mbv, it was something else entirely. The slightly dissonant, woozy layers of warm ambience played out for much longer than your average radio-unfriendly indie track; and the absence of any v/c/v structure (or indeed any structure at all that I could discern) meant instant inaccessibility to most ears. A track like “filter dub” for example, clocks in at just under nine minutes. And there’s nothing in there to say that it couldn’t have been extended to double that, in an Earthless or Basinski style, without losing the hook. Quique has stood the test of time far more than it’s contemporaries, and was re-released in 2007 as a redux edition with a bonus disc (CD only) of remixes and additional material, to widespread (relatively speaking) acclaim.

Seefeel released two more albums on Warp and Rephlex, the latter of which I found myself coming back to, even though it was far more funereal than Quique. They also released a couple of singles, one of which was the “Starethrough EP” with one of my favourite tracks of theirs, Air Eyes. The rumbling bass on it kept on making my stylus skip no matter what I seemed to do with the counter weight and anti skate. The echoing and treating of Sarah Peacock’s voice into piercing abstraction made my nerves fire. They were one of, if not my favourite artists in the nineties and I regretted not seeing them live back then.

After 1996 they went their separate ways for over a decade. But their members went on producing music. Mark Clifford released material as Disjecta and Sneakster, and also did an album with Chantal Passamonte; Sarah Peacock, Daren Seymour and Justin Fletcher teamed up with Mark Van Hoen as Scala. All of their side projects down through the years have been faithfully catalogued by Artbear – that website’s longevity is particularly impressive. And the quality of their output demonstrates what a criminally underrated influence they’ve been in electronic music for over two decades. Sarah Peacock’s voice was much more prominent and raw in the Scala material on Too Pure and Touch, demonstrating her capability as a vocalist rather than just another instrument in the mix. They returned again in 2009/10 with another LP on Warp and I saw them play at the ICA with their two new members Kazuhisa Iida and Shigeru Ishihara, but the jarring sawtooth of the bass and guitars from their eponymous release never quite sat right in my mind.

Their gig in the Printworks is a “… performing Quique” set. The album has been rightly venerated with the passing of time, although not as exalted and regrettably never selling as many units as Loveless, to carry that earlier comparison. Ultimately it may have come to define their sound. Whether I see whole-album performances by bands as a chance for genuine fans to communally hear the music they love and missed out first time around, or a cynical cashing in on their “greatest hits”, in true music elitist snob fashion depends on who it is and whether I like them or not! Regardless I am grateful for the opportunity to see them play one of their rare live shows and don’t really care what their setlist is. They’ve released two of their tracks from their recent tour for download on their bandcamp page which are spectacular, and it promises to be an interesting gig. I’ve also put together a small showcase of their lesser-known tracks on mixcloud from compilations, other releases and B sides; and also some tracks from their side projects. Hope you enjoy it, and see you at the gig.

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