(As I recall, the interview for this article was done by fax sometime in 1995.)
Seefeel’s music is like a state of perpetual shock. The music moves like it is not in time. Seefeel’s music is not quite here, there, or anywhere. It is like a feeling inside your head meeting a feeling or vibration in the air and then melting together. It climbs inside your head, and depending on the song, it soothes or stabs.
Mark Clifford, one of Seefeel’s main players, says, “I can’t speak for those who buy our records, but for me it is about connection. I think maybe it’s quite abstract music, so it would tend to cut you off from everyday street existence, but I’m not quite sure that’s such a bad thing. All music is a kind of escapism, not the least of which is pop music. We had a letter a while back from someone in Liverpool who was using our music with autistic children; and someone chose to give birth to Quique. So I guess our music helps some to connect with themselves … maybe … or not …”
Seefeel’s sound should bear a trademark. It sounds like nobody else. The basic aesthetic would go something like guitars slowed down and run through so many effects that eventually the lines are just blurred into smooth, long and drawn-out mantras. These come over pulsing and soft electronic beats. Sometimes, there’s female breathy vocals in the mix repeated and worked over to numbing effects. This description applies more to Quique or Seefeel’s earlier singles (compiled on Polyfusia). Their second full length, Succour, is more intense and high-strung – the rhythms almost rise to a drum’n'bass temp in places, but it’s frozen or brittle. Of Succour, in relation to the earlier records, Clifford says, “It all depends on how we are feeling really. I think Quique is a pretty warm record. Succour is more difficult and darker, I guess. We were all pretty tired and pissed-off when we recorded it because we had been working flat-out for about 18 months and all that tension is there in the music.”
From song to song, sounds are familiar, but if you look outward away from Seefeel, you won’t hear these songs anywhere else. Clifford says, “I think as a band we get more excited by things that sound fresh and the desire is always there to just tweak those sounds a little to see what happens. It’s all about wanting to push things just a little bit further and do something new. If we ever do feel that something is too close to someone else’s music, then we’ll tend to dump it.”
Recently, Clifford has done some really good work separate from Seefeel. There is Disjecta, which is a whole other group, whereas his recycling of four Cocteau Twins’ songs serves an addendum to Seefeel. The remixes on the Cocteau’s Otherness EP are glorious. What they sound like is a Seefeel that has gone maximum, or at least less minimum. Where Seefeel’s songs require the listener to fill in the blank spaces, if you sit back and listen to these Cocteau Twins’ remixes when they’re peaking you can just let your mind go and let the music do all the work for you. The voice of Cocteau Twins’ singer Elizabeth Fraser reaches everywhere. Clifford says, “In the sense that Elizabeth has such an acrobatic voice, and that her tone is so strong, it works well against the minimal music. If you are going to limit the vocal to a few sounds, then those few sounds have to have all the more impact, and so the quality of the voice is important.” Clifford doesn’t necessarily see the difference between these remixes and Seefeel’s body of work. He says, “I think the Otherness songs are a little more involved than some Seefeel stuff, but I’m not really sure. Maybe I’ve just learned more technically.”
Where Seefeel sounds monochromatic to me, Disjecta seems more like a rainbow. While Seefeel opts for less, Disjecta goes for more. You can even whistle along to Disjecta’s “K-Bop,” meaning there is a melody of sorts. Though Clifford does say melody is important to Seefeel. He says, “Melody is important to us, but not everything, sound and tone are also important. Most of the music is written spontaneously and then gradually tightened and stropped.”
Seefeel’s music is certain to make your head swim to different places, depths, levels, and environs. Says Clifford, “There is tension in our music, I think , because we want to let the music breathe as much as possible (as in dub music) but at the same time everything is very disciplined in terms of structure, riffs, etc…” One way or another, it resolves much of the listener’s tension.