Between 1993 and 1996, Seefeel developed a form of sample-based post-rock that used guitars to generate a sound closer to ambient techno. Following the release of Quique, their first and best album, Seefeel represented a new point on the map where shoegaze met the more euphoric, ethereal end of rave. Two more albums, Succour and (CH-VOX), followed before the band bowed out in 1997.
In 1994 Seefeel had become the first guitar band signed by Warp Records – quite a shock move at the time – and it was following a reunion for the label’s 20th anniversary show in Paris last year that two founder members, Mark Clifford and Sarah Peacock, decided to record new material. The reboot’s first fruit was last year’s Faults EP, which proved how ahead of their time Seefeel had been in the first place by sounding contemporary despite being overwhelmingly similar to their 1990s output.
Seefeel’s self-titled fourth album continues in the same vein, and has much to offer despite lacking the otherworldly impact they had back when other bands just didn’t sound like this. The basic template – hypnotic layers of looped guitar riffs, gaseous synth pads and Peacock’s smeared vocal lines and treated sighs – remains the same throughout, and when it comes together in the right way offers a powerful sensory experience.
The title track of last year’s EP reappears here, a techno-folk hybrid that showcases the ultra-clean, dry and disciplined style of ex-Boredoms drummer Iida Kazuhisa. His playing is borderline leaden on Dead Guitars, dragging along beneath the track’s more characterful superstructure of strangulated melody and stately pads. It’s a juxtaposition that works for me, but some might wish for less constrained rhythms.
That’s really the only noticeable difference between the renascent Seefeel and their original incarnation. Aug30 is gorgeous, and only a fool would scorn a gorgeous piece of music, but the fact it could have appeared on the 18-year-old Quique does at least qualify its value. It’s only with closing track Sway that Seefeel outright disappoint, the album’s sleek purposefulness petering out into a flabby dub workout.
At their current best, on the mournful majesty of Step Down, Seefeel acknowledge the intervening years between (CH-VOX) and their return. The track incorporates elements of the gliding synth sound that’s smeared itself over various Hyperdub, Night Slugs and Planet Mu releases over the last couple of years, while Peacock’s vocal contributions make the track sound, finally, like a beefier, glitchy Grouper. It’s the sort of update on their basic sound that’s heard too infrequently here, but even when they sound just like their old selves, Seefeel remain well worth listening to.
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