Now that the Xmas holiday is behind me, I can start wrapping up some of 2019’s unfinished business. And there’s quite a bit of it. I probably won’t get to it all before the New Year rolls around. But I can at least cross a few items off the long and lingering hit list that’s been incubating for the last few months.
On that note, I’m going to gaze back to roughly two months ago, November 3rd to be exact, when veteran obscurities and shoegaze noise pioneers Seefeel performed for their first time ever in Los Angeles, 26 years after the release of their low-rumbling drone melodica masterpiece “Quique” debuted.
I’m willing to bet good money that practically anyone that wasn’t around in the early ’90s has no idea who these Brits are. And even if you were, you might have easily missed them, unless you scoured the record stores for tasty imports, or shunned the popular tunes for the artistic obscurities of college, alternative, and underground radio. Back then, the internet was just a dream, and Spotify, YouTube, and the like were still pure fantasy.
So let’s set the record straight and get the history sorted. Seefeel started up back in ’92, towards the tail end of the wall of sound shoegaze scene, which in itself, moved in many directions, from hook-ready art-rock accessible to volume enormous mind-boggle to unhinged near-unlistenable cacophony. These Brits settled someone in the middle, sculpting shimmery instrumental soundscapes that moreso resembled hypnotic tone and densely layered texture, than, say, traditional song structure and ear-ready melody.
Obviously, Seefeel wasn’t, and still isn’t, for everybody. In fact, over their lengthy, and somewhat inconsistent career, they’ve veered even further into aural experimentation and deliberate abstraction. They have only four albums to their credit, the third and fourth efforts separated by a breakup that lasted from ’96 to ’11. Both those releases, “(Ch-Vox)” and “Seefeel,” respectively, were released on Aphex Twin’s Rephlex Records, so that should give you some idea what they sound like. Just think of an eccentric dive into a pool of ambient white noise, hitches of static-laden glitch-bop bisecting the waves of cacophony, at times mesmerizing and jarring, all at once.
Seefeel’s first performance in Los Angeles coincided with the first night of the reunion of seminal alternative act Bauhaus, which proved quite a challenge for me. Because there was no way in hell I was going to miss Bauhaus. But I also had no intention of sacrificing Seefeel. So I ended on a compromise, getting all of Bauhaus, then rushing from the Hollywood Palladium to the Echoplex, with just enough time to catch roughly two-thirds of Seefeel.
Unfortunately, from checking out their setlist, I missed a few great tracks from their first two albums, the aforementioned “Quique,” and its follow-up, “Succour.”. In fact, a majority of the show emphasized these early efforts, which was totally fine by me, since that was the material that I spent much of the early to mid-’90s immersed in.
Below are some of the highlights I was able to capture, including “Plainsong” and “Filter Dub,” two of the “Quique” tracks that utilize vocals as an ethereal instrumental accent, while warping the guitars into a swirled drone of high harmonic, and sometimes low dub-spoken, saturnalia.
Seefeel perform “Plainsong” at the Echoplex on 11.03.19.
Seefeel perform “Filter Dub” at the Echoplex on 11.03.19.
“Time to Find Me (Come Inside)” settles somewhere in between, a bit sparser and subdued, yet still otherworldly and captivating in its own soft-spoken feedbacked way.
Seefeel perform “Time to Find Me (Come Inside)” at the Echoplex on 11.03.19.
“Fracture” kicks it up a notch, adding an industrial rhythmic tribal percussive glitch that rides atop their characteristic sculptural reverb and etheric drone. It’s a bit intense, and works its magic in a different way, which also proved prophetic for their future explorations. But I like it just the same.
Seefeel perform “Fracture” at the Echoplex on 11.03.19.
I’ve also included a portion of a mystery track, three and a half minutes’ worth, which I still haven’t been able to identity. The internet, if it’s to be believed, claims this to be a new track. If so, then Seefeel seems to be returning to their roots, which can only be a good thing. Either way, it’s worth checking out.
Seefeel perform a song no one seems to recognize at the Echoplex on 11.03.19.
As I mentioned, I missed approximately the first third of the show. But through a bit of research, I was able to cobble together the missing bits for this setlist. I do regret not witnessing “Climatic Phase No.3” and “Industrious” in the live setting. But when two unmissable acts perform on the same night, compromises need to be made.
I’m hoping that Seefeel’s first U.S. tour won’t simultaneously be their last. Because I’d certainly like to experience their full show. Still, I’m more than satisfied that I had the opportunity to attend (mostly) their one and only L.A. appearance to date. So that will have to do.
Until the next one …