Sunday, November 3, 2019

Seefeel US Tour: Nov 1 - 15 | The Ephemeral Electronic-Rock Micromovement

The 1990s cross-pollination of concurrent genre movements produced an abundance of hybrid variations on even then new music forms and cultures. Only a decade into it's development as a sound, the largely British scene that comprised Shoegaze found itself in an identity crisis of sorts. Its genesis having only begun a decade before with two bands; Robin Guthrie and Elizabeth Fraser's Cocteau Twins in the early 80s, and A.R. Kane, the late-80s British duo, whom The Guardian credits as having "Invented Shoegaze without Really Trying". Representative of their influence, over thirty years later both bands can be seen to rank highly on Pitchfork's "The 30 Best Dream Pop Albums of All Time". In recent years many of the sound's most influential and formative acts have returned from extended hiatus, not only touring, but with new, and relevant material. The most improbable of them all, both My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive have not only reformed to tour, but produced some of the best material of their respective careers. Other unlikely returns have been seen in Robert Hampson reforming LOOP, the one-time-only North american visit from Lush's brand of 4AD dreampop, and tours and the first new material of decades from The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Ride. The Guardian's "Shoegaze: The Genre that Could Not be Killed", and New York Times' "Shoegaze, the Sound of Protest Shrouded in Guitar Fuzz, Returns", best encapsulating this resurgence. For those just entering into the neon torrent, you'd not go far wrong beginning with The Guardian's "Shoegaze: A Beginner's Guide", and the Cherry Red label's anthology of a perfect overview with their, "Still in a Dream: The Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995.".

Yet the sound wasn't always on such sure footing. In the stretch of just a few short years spanning 1993 to 1995, Slowdive produced what appeared to be their final album at the time, My Bloody Valentine had disappeared into a abyss of postproduction and studio costs following "Loveless", and the culture itself outwardly appeared to have run it's course. Having mined the depths of introspective, distorted noiserock, many other early proponents of the sound were looking elsewhere for inspiration. Opening a course away from this impasse, the explosive rise of European and British electronic music culture of the decade offered an infusion of new energy, advanced technique and a complexly abstract stylistic component. This late offshoot being even more short-lived than its parent genre, yet produced a set of artists and recordings that speak to the time and context, while remaining outside of easy classification. Notable entries include Global Communication’s "Pentamerous Metamorphosis" an album length electronic restructuring of "Blood Music" by Chapterhouse, and the forefront use of samples and repetitive beats which dominated Primal Scream’s classic "Screamadelica". Even the archetypal Postpunk band Wire, produced an album in this mode with 1991's "The First Letter", featuring remixes by LFO and The Orb. Concurrently the influence of rising electronic producers, Andrew Weatherall, Sabres of Paradise, Alex Paterson, Jimmy Cauty, and Richard D. James' could be heard everywhere in numerous remixes of indie, Shoegaze and Britpop artists of the time. Intersecting with the expressly cerebral end of the spectrum as heard on labels like Warp, Skam, and Ninja Tune, the British label Too Pure can be said to have introduced the most explicit example of the genre with their signing of Seefeel.

Sharing in the Postrock sound of some of their label companions Stereolab, Moonshake, Pram, and Rothko, the then-quartet of Mark Clifford, Daren Seymour, Justin Fletcher, and Sarah Peacock bridged these sounds with the electronic abstraction of those being concurrently produced by Autechre, Bola, Aphex Twin, and later, Boards of Canada. Their successes on Too Pure led the quartet to then align themselves with the burgeoning electronic music roster at Warp Records, releasing the "Starethrough" EP and "Succour" within the same year. Richard D. James was then able to entice them to his own Rephlex imprint the following year, with their final release of the 1990s, "CH-Vox". The Quietus rightly cites Seefel as the most explicit manifestation of this musical moment in their, “The Sine That Celebrates Itself: On Electronic Shoegaze" overview, noting not on only the cultural context of the time, but the current landscape that the newly reformed quartet has re-entered. Following the reissue of their first album, 1993's "Quique" as a collaboration between Medical Records and Light in the Attic in 2013, still-active members Mark Clifford and Sarah Peacock discussed writing new material. Within a short stretch they had performed at a set of European festivals and recruited Boredoms' Kazuhisa Iida and Shigeru Ishihara on percussion and bass guitar respectively. What Clifford has referred to as “Seefeel: A Constant Journey” has brought the band back to their home of decades past Warp Records, with two new works, the "Faults" EP and eponymous album, "Seefeel". More surprising yet, this year a unearthed Peel Session from 1994 finally sees the light of day, and a first-ever North American tour representing the most recent manifestation of their sound as heard in the "Sp/Ga" EP spans both coasts.