Japanese artists are a fixture at Barcelona’s world-famous electronica showcase SonarSound. But Sonar itself has only been an occasional visitor to Japan.
After events here in 2002, 2004 and 2006, the festival returns to Tokyo next month for the first time in five years. This time around, Sonar is working with veteran Tokyo record distributor and promoter Beatink, whose close relationship with UK electronica label Warp guarantees the presence of aggressively experimental acts like Battles and Flying Lotus, alongside domestic artists including DJ Krush and Ryoji Ikeda. Also from the Warp stable are British post-rave electronica group Seefeel, who have just reunited and released their first album in 15 years.
Formed in London in 1992 by guitarist/programmer Mark Clifford, bassist Mark Van Hoen, drummer Justin Fletcher and vocalist Sarah Peacock, the group married a live guitars-and-vocals approach to a musical vocabulary informed by ambient techno.
In Seefeel’s five-year career, they never came to Japan. But Warp’s release of the group’s new self-titled album, featuring Clifford and Peacock along with new Japanese members bassist Shigeru Ishihara (DJ Scotch Egg) and former Boredoms drummer Kazuhisa Iida (E-Da), created the long-awaited opportunity.
Why reform now? “We met up for the first time in years to do interviews for the Quique rerelease,” Peacock tells Metropolis from England about the reissue of their first album, “and Mark asked if I’d be interested in hearing some music he’d made recently to see if I could add some ideas. Gradually it all came together, and here we are!”
With the presence of Scotch Egg and E-Da, Seefeel have traded in their shoegaze influences for post-rock atmospheres. “We’ve got much more of a capacity for live improvisation and sound manipulation than before, due to the new lineup and all the new technology available since we were originally working,” Peacock says, adding that Clifford knew E-Da from Brighton where they had both lived and worked together.
“This has really changed the live set, as before we were ‘tied’ to a backing track and limited with what we could do. It has also contributed to the sound of the new album in a big way.”
Still, in songs like “Dead Guitars,” Seefeel unmistakably recalls the mind-melding ambient house that characterized the early days of British techno, while the manner in which Peacock’s delicate vocals float above a sea of electronics puts the band in the company of acts like Portishead.
In those heady years, Seefeel shared stages with great names of the time, while employing a slightly different approach. “We were always on the fringes of any kind of scene,” Peacock recalls about the early ’90s when they were signed by indie imprint Too Pure (Stereolab, PJ Harvey, etc).
“We didn’t fit in particularly with the other bands on Too Pure when we started, and our live setup always set us apart from artists like Aphex Twin, Autechre, etc.” she continues. “But it was great to play gigs and festivals with them, as we admired and loved what they were doing.”
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