Seefeel

Before the electro-infused indie and post-rock of today, there was Seefeel; a UK based electronic-rock outfit composed of four musicians; Mark Clifford on guitar, Sarah Peacock on guitar and vocals, Daren Seymour on bass and Justin Fletcher on drums. Like the pulsating, polyrhythmic sound scapes they composed, Seefeel ebbed and flowed to and from existence; some noticed, buying up every last release as they trickled out from Seefeel's christened studio, 'Polyfusia'. Many remain fans to this day in light of the fact that, until recently, Seefeel have been on an open-ended and indefinite hiatus. In spite of a relative underexposure (not helped by the fact that nearly the entire back-catalog remains out-of-print) the importance of Seefeel's existence cannot be underestimated. They provided a bridge between the electronic nouveau and indie-rock; being ultimately instrumental in opening up the parallel reality of electronic music to the more adventurous members of the indie scene.

Seefeel emerged at a time when conventional guitar music was stagnating; Grunge, with it's iconoclastic visual and aural aesthetic, was subverting the excesses of post-1980s arena rock and subsequently hijacking mainstream audiences hungry for something new. Indie and art-rock were pushing the genre forward further still by placing more emphasis on the aural texture of the guitar rather than creating hooky chords and bridges. To the far left of it all, there was a curious musical development whose heart beated to a time-measured circuitry of sequencers, samplers and drum-machines; spurred on by the synthetic revolution of the 1980s, electronic music was coming into it's own as technology was finally able to accommodate it's boundless compositional potential. Perhaps instinctively the members of Seefeel, under the guise of a conventional four-piece guitar band, tapped into all of these abstract movements and genres, fusing (or perhaps 'polyfusing') them into an entirely fresh and new sound altogether; one with the humanity of a band and the inhumanity of a machine. You can pierce it's living flesh and it bleeds mercury; feel it's loving and visceral caress over your body, look into it's eyes and see the regimented technochrome of it's electrical mind. Back in the early to mid ninties Seefeel sounded like nothing else at the time and, in the wake of countless contemporaries, still sound fresh and unique today to those who would newly discover their timeless work.

Seefeel formed in early 1992; "I put adverts up and just saw loads and loads of people, really" Mark Clifford detailed in a 2003 interview with 'Perfect Sound Forever'. "I was the one who kind of looked for people to start the band, and basically it ended up consisting more of people who I got along with personally than people who were great musicians or anything". Six months later the lineup was complete. Friend and fellow musician Mark Van Hoen played bass initially but was later replaced by Daren Seymour. Though not officially part of the Seefeel lineup thereafter, Van Hoen continued to be involved with the band; principally as their live sound engineer. Each member brought a different musical aesthetic and expectation to Seefeel's initial sound. "The first demos we did and the first couple of gigs... there was probably more song structure to them, but they still weren't verse/chorus." detailed Mark.

The members quickly realized how compositionally restrictive traditional songwriting structures were and began experimenting with samplers. Shortly after disseminating several demos to local labels, they were picked up by 'Too Pure'; a burgeoning label then in vogue as the next '4AD' with it's full roster of more unconventional acts. Early recording sessions soon yielded their first EP, 'More Like Space', whose thick and fuzzy treated guitar melodies supplanted more conventional synths; fading in and out of the mix anchored only by minimal percussive elements and Sarah's ethereal, often wordless vocal. This aesthetic for FX-swathed guitar loops with predominately electronic-sounding percussion and Sarah's utterances carried over to their next EP, 'Pure, Impure', to which Richard 'Aphex Twin' James famously contributed two remixes. This sound was honed and ultimately perfected on their first full-length album, 'Quique', in late 1993; an album held in high regard by many as Seefeel's true masterpiece. 'Quique' also holds the esteem of being Seefeel's only recording to remain in print as it was reissued in 2007 as a remastered special edition.

Following 'Quique', as subsequent recording sessions yielded a more and more introverted and experimental electronic sound, Seefeel decamped to the Sheffield based electronic label 'Warp Records' in 1994. Although containing the essential elements of their previous work, Seefeel's output on Warp delved much more into beat-oriented abstraction; often containing a pervading dark and oppressive atmosphere. Although featuring these edgier sensibilities, 1994's 'Starethrough EP' retained some of the dreamy lightheartedness of 'Quique'; a track like 'Spangle' could be called anything but dark with it's twinkling coruscations of melody and Sarah's angelic vocal. The EP to follow, 'Fracture / Tied', was almost entirely beat-driven with only rudimentary hints of melody. The skeletal mainframe of their new sound culminated with a second studio album, 'Succour', in 1995; driving electronic percussion, dubby basslines and obtuse, paranoid guitar melodies abound. Sarah's vocals sound synthetic and almost alien in the barren, lunar atmosphere's that 'Succour' evokes.

In 1996 Seefeel released their third studio album; (CH-VOX), on friend Richard James' 'Rephlex' imprint. (CH-VOX) represents the furthest progression of Seefeel's continuing abstraction; the beats are almost entirely whittled away, supplanted instead by droning tapestries of processed guitars. Breathtaking as it is alienating, (CH-VOX) was heralded at the time as an unforgettable, if not triumphant, goodbye for the band.

As creative tensions mounted, the members of Seefeel parted ways to explore other avenues of musical creativity. Sarah, Daren and Justin, along with long-time Seefeel benefactor Mark Van Hoen, formed 'Scala'; focusing on tighter song-structure which underscored Sarah's vocals. Mark Clifford continues to release music under a wealth of aliases and collaborative projects including 'Disjecta', 'Woodenspoon' and 'Sneakster'. Mark has also remixed other artists ranging from Autechre to the Cocteau Twins and, as of 2003, runs his own 'Polyfusia' record label.

Seefeel also played at...