An interesting evening was spent in Kings Cross on Monday night enjoying the newly-reformed Seefeel, an obscure but much-admired electronica outfit who have recently resurfaced with a new line-up, following a decade-long hiatus.
Featuring guitars and laptops side by side on stage, Seefeel were always a band who precariously straddled the boundary between art rock and experimental dance music. But tonight another tightrope was walked, one veering between epic, absorbing soundscapes and frustratingly relentless experimentation which bordered on pretentiousness.
A Seefeel gig is a curious event, largely unfettered by lyrics or conventional song patterns. Original members Mark Clifford and Sarah Peacock and newcomers Shigeru Ishihara and Iida Kazuhisa send you down a structureless wormhole of glitches, affected beats, crunchy bass and twisty, perpetual loops. Sometimes it works - Ishihara’s array of pedals produced some extraordinary, deliciously squelchy bass which enveloped the room, and Kazuhisa and Clifford produced some impressively measured percussion from their respective laptop/drumkit setup.
But occasionally it all got a bit much, driving perilously close to self-parody on several occasions, most notably when Peacock repeatedly and incessantly sang “keep everything clear”, in a manner that made everything rather unclear. And even your most hardened experimental dance aficionado would have had trouble with some of the grunge coming out of the speakers. However avant-garde you consider yourself, some sounds are just unpleasant on the eardrums.
Nonetheless, it was a unique experience. For electronic music this noisy, you might expect a grotty club out east, but this gig - a launch party for their first album since 1996 - was at Kings Place, beneath the Guardian’s glossy new offices. The quiet, attentive audience - mostly Warp records geeks - remained stationary throughout, and seemed unsure when to applaud - understandable when the ‘songs’, if you could call them that, blended indiscriminately into one another. But you should know what you’re getting with a Seefeel gig, and they certainly delivered. If you didn’t know what you were getting... well, it was probably all a bit bewildering for you.