Seefeel: Polyfusia

            I am listening to this as I write now so the challenge is to convey some of what I'm hearing. If there were words I would associate with this music, it would be: in space, out of space, beyond space, in time, out of time, beyond time, a shower of sound, water, ice melting, molecules forming. This is indelibly modern and not in a pejorative way, the way that modern brings to it all the trappings of self-conscious and often pretentious artiness. This is modern in an almost anachronistic way, in a way that transmits something about timelessness. Sound contradictory? Hmm.. that's the difficulty of this music. No matter when you hear it, it still contains a hint of the modern even as it stretches you to timelessness. OK, enough of the hyperbole. What are the band Seefeel about? Seefeel, of course, no longer exist, having broken up long ago. When they released their first songs in 1993, they were trying to use guitars in unconventional ways, as ambience and mood instead of melody and pattern. They were obviously influenced by My Bloody Valentine, especially things like MBV's Glider e.p. with its explorations of sound and dance ("Glider" and "Soon" respectively) and the brilliant and rare "Instrumental B" that came with the first MBV album back in the late '80s. But where MBV used guitars to make guitar sounds, Seefeel treated their guitars with electronics or in some cases completely abandoned guitars for electronics in search of the complete blissout, moving their music further and further into the stratosphere.

Their music is ostensibly instrumental but not because it doesn't have voices; in fact many of their songs do have voices, but voices as fundamental instruments of sound rather than as the lead sound. The CD tracks are long pieces, firmly minimalist, with not much to ground them except repetitive bass and percussion, based loosely around a dub influence. In fact, were it not for the bass/drum backbone, the sounds would pretty much float out into total ambience, with nothing to hold onto. They use guitars, sequencers, electronics, synthesizers, and voices to create a brilliant mix that is utterly unlike anything else. OK, maybe that's not true: there were/are many others who have worked in a similar vein (Aphex Twin, Autechre, etc.), mining the possibilities of electronic repetition with ethereal-sounding music that is about texture rather than narrative. What makes Seefeel unique is that the quality of their work is superb, on a completely different level than all their peers (and they didn't have many) and more so, of the many people who came after them. And even more a dozen years after these recordings, their music sounds just as out of touch and out of sequence with anything that you might hear in 2006.

This particular album is not really an album since it's an amalgamation of two e.p.'s, the 4-song More Like Space and the 6-song pure, impure, both originally released in 1993. The title track from the former is quite literally one of the most brilliant pieces of music ever recorded, nearly nine minutes of repetition that is all about tones and textures, slowly and imperceptibly building, ebbing, lifting up to who knows where.

Who were Seefeel? They were basically Mark Clifford (guitars and the main guy), Sarah Peacock (guitars, whose lovely vocals provide the ethereal counterpoint), Daren Seymour (bass, radio), and Justin Fletcher (rhythm programming). They released their first proper album, the hour-long Quique (a lovely phonetic invention) in 1994 that was more an extension of the first two e.p.s rather than a major departure, although by the time you get to the final tracks on the album, it's clear that the band is now heading into territory that is without structure or reference to anything that one might recognize. An obvious reference point here is Aphex Twin, and indeed, Aphex Twin remixed several Seefeel tracks around this time (some of them featured on the Polyfusia compilation).

Seefeel would eventually release two more full-length albums, Succour and (ch-vox), exploring some of the same themes, dispensing completely with any vocal presence and moving their music into electronic rhythm patterns repeated ad nauseum with bits of melodic milestones thrown in. You had to leave your preconceptions of music behind basically. As far as I can tell, their last major release was in 1996 and they last toured in 1997 and then broke up into various splinter projects. There's an interview with Mark Clifford done in 2003 here. A little snippet:


Question: When I was a junior in high school and I first got Quique, I got incredibly sick shortly afterwards, and I remember that a big part of my getting into the album was that it was one of the best records to listen to when I was feeling sick; it wasn't too obtrusive, but it wasn't just wallpaper either. Do you think your music has a therapeutic quality to it?


Clifford: For me, making it definitely does. I can feel really low and I then I can make music and within minutes, if I do something which I really like, it can just transform my mood instantly. Like I can just go though a complete mood swing, from being completely low to completely high. My music does that to me, personally, and so I would assume then that at least some of that comes out in the music [for other people]. I mean I know, for example, that Quique was used with autistic children. I have letters from people saying they've used it therapeutically with children. So I know from that point of view that it does have that effect.


Question: Wow. Where was that?


Clifford: Well, the letter was from some place in Liverpool. It was just a letter saying, "Thank you, this has been invaluable with working with autistic children." And I know people have given birth to it. I've had letters from people who've given birth to Quique.

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