When Seefeel emerged in the early 1990s, they existed as part of a first wave of distinctly leftfield UK bands, a disparate group that included the likes of Bark Psychosis, Disco Inferno, Stereolab, Pram and Flying Saucer Attack. Although dubbed ‘post-rock’, the term first coined by music critic Simon Reynolds in a review of Bark Psychosis’ album ‘Hex’, in reality many of these acts sound far removed from the increasingly drawn-out signifiers of ‘post-rock’ today: instrumental rock outfits such as Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky reiterating quiet-loud-quiet dynamics ad infinitum.

A number of that first wave of acts was on the celebrated Too Pure label, which put out Seefeel’s first album ‘Quique’. A mixture of the Aphex Twin (who would go on to remix them), Terry Riley, and My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’, ‘Quique’ still sounds majestic today, a deconstruction of traditional guitar music in which the riff was replaced by a molten lava flow of repeating looped guitar. Not that Seefeel were purely ambient – the album had drum rhythms and Sarah Peacock’s dazed vocals, reminiscent of the Cocteau Twin’s Liz Frazer, floating over the top. Yet the cavernous dub bass and ebbing flow of the guitar remained utterly distinct from ordinary ‘rock’ music.

Utterly mesmerising, ‘Quique’ sounded like rock music heading towards the 21st century, unshackled from normal songwriting constraints. The band could never quite match it in subsequent releases, and went on hiatus around 1997.
Their reactivation in 2010 onwards remains an interesting one. Artists such as Christian Fennesz, Tim Hecker and even futuristic rockers such as Battles have took much of Seefeel’s aesthetic and applied it to real-time software such as Ableton Live, which was utterly out of reach for musicians twenty years ago. In the anything goes-laptop era, the question of how Seefeel will continue to sound like rock music from the future in 2011, as ‘Quique’ utterly did in the early 90s, is a moot one.

So the anticipation to see them live at Kings Place - an arts venue housed in the same quarters as 'The Guardian' newspaper, located in an industrial zone near the back of King’s Cross station – remains high for the curious crowd, many of whom look far too young to have seen them the first time round.

When the band do appear, there’s the line-up change to contend with, first of all: founding members Peacock and Mark Clifford have been joined by DJ Scotch Egg filling in for Darren Seymour on bass and Boredoms ex-member E-Da taking the drum stool in the place of Justin Fletcher. The change of line-up has affected the music too: instead of the ebb and flow of 'Quique' , the new materialon their self-titled first album in fifteen years sounds wiry and jumpy, reminiscent of something Warp label mates Autechre might do.

This is nowhere more apparent than on the set opener ‘Dead Guitars’, in which serrated and chopped guitar lines circle like a swarm of bees around a stuttering, syncopated drum rhythm, while a menacing synth churns away. It’s manifestly different to their early material, yet one remainder of the band’s original sound does remain: Peacock’s voice. Whispering, ghostly and shimmering over the music, it brings to mind My Bloody Valentine's Belinda Butcher. Her singing throughout the set remains the bridge connecting to the new material and ‘Quique’, and the band do find time to revisit that album once, with a hypnotic take on ‘Filter Dub’ that has the audience swaying, while on ‘Step Down’ she repeats the mantra “keep everything clear”. It’s also hauntingly beautiful on ‘Aug30’, the highlight for this writer both live and on the new record, where her angelic wordless croons are looped over drums and veering laptop noises.

The new sound takes a while to adjust, and if there is any issue, it remains the percussion: the lack of any dynamic range in the drums (virtually no discernable cymbals or hi-hat) and its jarring, stuttering nature beings to feel after a while that it can drag the music down, in contrast to the natural, hypnotic flow of the beats on ‘Quique’.

Then again, perhaps that’s the point. One charge you can’t level on Seefeel is that they are content to rest on past glory, and they were never likely to be the kind of band happy to become musical waxworks. At times during the set, they bring to mind the likes of current IDM-explorer Oneohtrix Point Never more than any of their early 90s contemporaries. As befits their aesthetic, this is a band looking forward, not past.











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