(As published in B-Side ... )
For the past year-and-a-half, British critics have waxed inventive in trying to describe the techno, tabula-rasa-from-the-hearts-of-space sound of the three lads and a lass from London known as Seefeel.
"[O]ver a foetal-heartbeat bassline,” wrote Simon Reynolds, “billowing cirrus-swirls ... weave together to form a shimmering outerspace/innerspace wombscape."
You get the idea.
One phrase, however, continues to surface.
"The words 'ambient noise' keep coming up," says Sarah Peacock, Seefeel's twenty-four-year-old siren. "I don't have any objection to that in itself. But we don't start off with a genre and then make the music to fit it, you know?"
In other words, if Seefeel's two U.S. longplayers, Polyfusia and Quique, sound like ambient music to you, fine. But Peacock, Mark Clifford (guitar and gadgetry), Daren Seymour (bass and gadgetry), and Justin Fletcher (percussion and gadgetry) didn't plunge into the burbly, non-verbal waters of synthetic effervescence for that reason. No, sir. They did it because--well, why did they do it?
"Some people have said it's very good music to wash up to," Peacock says, "but I hope people dance. When we play live, certainly people do get down and shake their things."
She laughs at her use of disco lingo. After all, nothing could be further from Saturday Night Fever than Seefeel's hypnotic, sub-verbal, cumulus clouds of tape-doctored sound, could it?
"Well, but there's always a groove to it. Everything we do has something about it that you can move to if it's loud enough, if the circumstances are right. I've got no objection to somebody's chilling out to it or whatever, but that's not why we make it, really. The stuff that turns us on is usually exciting stuff, stuff that makes you want to dance. That's what I want, certainly.
“I mean, sure, we have got some stuff, I suppose, like 'Signals' on Quique, that hasn't got any beat. You couldn't really dance to that. But I hope our music is more kind of head-fuck ambience than chill-out ambience, if you like. We want it to be challenging rather than background music. Yeah."
Like a cross between Tangerine Dream and Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music?
"Um, I'm sure I've probably heard some Tangerine Dream," Peacock equivocates, "but I haven't got any of their records. That was well before my time."
Quique (pronounced keek) and Polyfusia (a compilation of two pre-Quique EPs) have washed ashore courtesy of Caroline, but Peacock says Seefeel's future projects will bear the Warp Records imprint, probably in conjunction with one of the major labels that Warp is currently negotiating with. Meanwhile, those with London connections can already purchase two post-Quique discs: the "Starethrough"/"Filter Dub"/"Signals" twelve-inch and the official Starethrough EP.
But, commerce aside, just how does Seefeel generate its sounds?
"A lot of it is done with a sampler," Peacock explains, "pretty much nearly all of it. But the things that we sample are created by ourselves rather than taken off other records. We'll sort of make up percussion sounds and little pieces of effected guitar and things like that, sped up, slowed down, messed around with on the sampler, and usually repeated and looped. Then we'll add bass lines and vocals."
Are Peacock's diaphanous, wraith-like vocals sped up and messed around with too?
"Um, never all that much, no. I mean, there'll be a bit of delay and a bit of reverb. I think 'Charlotte's Mouth' on Quique had a bit of the weird effects on it--I was singing through a guitar amp--but it's never usually very much."
And what does she make of the notion that says the more techno the instruments, the less emotional the songs?
"I think that's bollocks, really. We put a lot of emotion into our music. You can be totally passionate with a sampler. You can bang keys on a keyboard, and it can be, you know, straight from the heart just as much as thrashing on a guitar or singing the blues, as long as you're setting out to be yourself and be honest about what you're doing, which we are, I hope, in our striving to be something different.
"We are trying to be really honest with that, you know. And I hope we succeed."