When London’s Seefeel released its first EP in 1993, the quartet was one of the few bands using guitars as a primary instrument in creating largely textural pieces, more in line with the ambient sounds of contemporary electronic bands. As the band developed, it gradually grew out of its blissed-out, post-My Bloody Valentine cocoon and into an equally fertile electronic realm. The four songs on More Like Space glide and glimmer at an unhurried pace; the band molds guitar lines like taffy, looping sounds with a sequencer. The songs’ airy structures and production might have let them float off into mid-air if it weren’t for the viscous dub-influenced basslines, which rope tracks back to the inner stratosphere. While the nearly nine-minute title song and “Blue Easy Sleep” are essentially instrumental, “Time to Find Me (Come Inside)” showcases Sarah Peacock’s wispy vocals, barely there coos that mainly add texture. “Come Alive” is the only Seefeel track to feature the vocals, however subdued, of guitarist and chief songwriter Mark Clifford.
After the release of a new three-song 12-inch (which contains “Plainsong,” a much more bubbly and overt song than its predecessors), the Aphex Twin remixed two different versions of “Time to Find Me,” both of which are included on Pure, Impure, along with “Moodswing” and “Minky Starshine” (the two B-sides of the “Plainsong” 12-inch) and another Aphex remix. Pure, Impure and More Like Space were then repackaged in toto as Polyfusia, which finally brought America up to date with this impressive developing band.
Seefeel’s first proper album, the seductive Quique, is an hour-long expansion of the same themes, with a subtle shift toward sound over substance. As the songs grow airier and Peacock’s vocals become more an element than a lightpost, the rubbery basslines and looped guitar sounds, repeated until they form melodies, become the songs’ primary glue. A reappearance of “Plainsong,” the most vocal-heavy track here, joins the haunting and self-explanatory “Filter Dub,” plus such near-ambient excursions as “Through You” and “Signals” — hints of the band’s next sonic shift.
A label switch to top British electronic label Warp (home to the Aphex Twin) signaled the band’s drift away from song structure toward inviting sonic wallpaper. Seefeel isn’t quite wall decoration with the Starethrough EP. The distance between lead-heavy basslines and the airy snippets of Peacock’s vocals is considerably thinner, however; on the title cut, the vocals and Clifford’s inventive guitar permutations hang like a fog over the thick rhythms. “Spangle” stands among Seefeel’s finest cuts, the same components coalescing into a compelling whole and Peacock’s vocals adding a Cocteau Twins-like touch, while the barely-there “Lux 1” foreshadows the spareness of the group’s next endeavor.
The vocals on Succor, another double-album-length project, are down to a minor element, the looped guitar sounds are stretched out over time and space (words are totally out of the picture); even the basslines are diluted. What remains are electronic rhythm patterns and subtly repeated bits of sound, which gel into an airy representation of the band’s primary elements but don’t achieve the same potency as the band’s other CDs. “Fracture” and “Ruby-Ha” eventually emerge as memorable songs; so does “Rex,” whose sharper techno beats and quicker pace set it apart.
In 1995, Clifford began recording his own material under the name Disjecta, while the other three began collaborating as Scala. Looking for Snags (also known as 1.0) CD, which collects two instrumental 12-inch EPs, Looking for Snags 1 and 2, furthers Clifford’s movement away from warm, guitar-generated sounds and vocals, and toward colder electronics. He’s most successful when he builds repetitive refrains into subliminal hooks, as on “K-Bop” and “Skeeze,” or attempts to create a mood (“Looking for Snags”), but his mastery of the techniques isn’t adequate for the songs to really stick; without basslines or vocals, much of it amounts to little more than nifty background music.