With driving dance-floor music at an inconceivable height of popularity, it’s sometimes hard to remember that there remains a scene dedicated to using electronic instruments for experimental advances rather than populist euphoria. Seefeel have been in that scene since the mid-’90s, one of the foot soldiers of Warp’s historic monopoly of thought-provoking electro-ambient. Their latest self-titled effort is the first LP we’ve seen from the band in nearly 15 years, as such it sounds intrinsically relatable to the abstract, and oft-eccentric sensibilities that defined the last decade’s fractured take on dance music- sitting comfortably with its brandished Warp logo.
As arguably one of Warp’s lesser artists, Seefeel never had a specific sound, but this record has them reasserting the general aesthetics of the label’s trademarked unity. It emerges like a fully-formed piece, awakening its most rhythmic elements towards the end of the listen, growing deeper and mixable as the running time drags on. In fact the first five tracks seem like a build-up to the nocturnal forlornness of Rip-Run, a ghostly seven-minute centerpiece of dampened bass-punches and eerily inhuman whistles. The noise loop that comes before it, Gzaug, props the towering composition up nicely, accentuating its scale and purpose. Earlier, the woozy static splashes of Dead Guitars sets a tone of stark alienation, and creates the slow-motion tempo that the rest of the album works in.
After Rip-Run comes Making, easily the album’s most mixable and connected track, the dubstep-lite warble joined with a just-out-of-range whisper from a spectre of a female voice – it’s the only time on the album a human of such indisputable emotion makes an appearance; unlike the uncannily shiny sing-song of earlier track Faults. Eventually that gives way to the closing cornerstone Sway; at nine minutes it’s Seefeel’s longest track. It’s also the first time the band allow a few rays of sunlight to penetrate the dark, anti-social mix. Legendary experimentalists have always waited to the end of a work for solace, and Seefeel reciprocate studiously.
For those of us already acquainted with this strain of headphones-oriented electronic loops, this will come off as a bit nostalgic. Seefeel embrace an incredibly reclusive style of sound-making; gray, robotic, antisocial, certainly a hot ticket circa 1996 but not in line with the organic, drone-focused work of a more modern producer like Fennesz. But the record has weight and a directed stream of ideas that closely replicates the workmanship associated with the best of Warp’s catalogue. A close cousin is Boards Of Canada; their haunted soundscapes build disassociated field recordings and modulated synthesizers into real experiences. Seefeel is nowhere near the mountainous masterpiece of BoC’s best records, but it’s pulled off with a respectable professionalism. Richard D James would be proud.