Post-rock icons Seefeel made one of the most obsession-worthy albums of the '90s -- and 2007
"It was definitely Kevin Shields it was his playing that made me want to play guitar in a different way," explains Mark Clifford, former guitarist and studio mastermind of United Kingdom electro innovators Seefeel. "I saw My Bloody Valentine every time I could around '88, right after 'You Made Me Realise.' And it was amazing, the kind of noise they could make: one sound, one chord that was this long, sustained wash of noise."
If Shields's Valentines were the guitar experimentalists of the shoegaze era, then acolytes Seefeel, a Too Pure acoustic turned post-rock turned electronic group, were the six-string geniuses of the post-rave era. The Brighton band's 1993 debut, the much-lauded Quique rereleased this year was a vital piece of electroacoustic art, so defiant of the conventional boundaries of techno, indie rock, and the dubiously termed IDM genre that it forced critic Simon Reynolds to invent a new descriptor: post-rock.
"When we started up, we were pretty much labeled in every genre rock, dub, techno, electronic," Clifford recalls. "And it just seemed silly, really. I remember we were getting compared to bands like [labelmates] Disco Inferno. To be honest with you, I couldn't see any similarity in our music whatsoever." In fact, Quique in many ways the equal of its inspiration, Loveless (Creation, 1991) remains less a timely "rock" record than a series of liminal compositions whose meanings shift and decay like glaciers or isotopes according to some inexplicable molecular clock. The album's concoction of guitar drones, buzzing keyboard loops, and cooing vocals courtesy of bassist Sarah Peacock has a narcotic vastness that might very well induce a century-long slumber. So it might come as no surprise, then, that Seefeel's oeuvre would draw the attention of somnambulists Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, and yes, even Radiohead.
Criminally remanded to the record store dustbin since Seefeel's demise in 1996, Quique was finally given the full-on two-CD treatment in April by Too Pure, and, as in '93, it's one of the best listens of the year. Few new bands experimenting with tones and drones have managed to match Quique's blend of infectious creativity and instrumental minimalism. Rather, the noughties' profusion of laptop technology and easy-listening soundtracks has caused increasing schisms between electronica's subcultures and an attendant creative stagnation. "There seems to be something extremely decadent about electronic music, which it didn't have in the '90s," Clifford says. "It had something fresh and virginal then that it doesn't have now."
For all of his accomplishments in genre bending and musical innovation, Clifford, now producing work under the Disjecta and Sneakster monikers and running Polyfusia Records, remains modest and somewhat aloof. "The thing about electronic music is a lot of stuff you hear sounds new, but when you listen to people like Tod Dockstader, who was doing it 40 or 50 years ago with just tape and found sounds, you realize [technology's] just enabled us to do that kind of thing easier," he says. Fifteen years on, Quique still makes sonic brilliance sound easy.
•Alog, Amateur (Rune Grammofon)
•Caribou, Andorra (Merge)
•Leonard Cohen, Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs from a Room, Songs of Love and Hate (Columbia/Legacy)
•Dean and Britta, Back Numbers (Zoë)
•Fennesz, Hotel Paral.lel (Editions Mego)
•Fire Engines, Hungry Beat (Acute)
•Grinderman, Grinderman (Anti-)
•PJ Harvey, White Chalk (Island)
•Seefeel, Quique (Redux Edition) (Too Pure)
•Robert Wyatt, Comicopera (Domino)