To commemorate the 20th anniversary of a unique record - Seefeel's "Quique", Modern Classics Records imprint, in association with Medical Records, has reissued the album on vinyl this week. The London quartet's debut album-pronounced 'keek-is a dreamy confluence of dub, abstract electronic music and minimalist composition techniques, and remains a touchstone record in the ambient and shoegaze movements.
Quique first oscillated into the world in July 1993 via UK label Too Pure, joining the dots between Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine and Aphex Twin. Its most striking quality was its sheer sense of invention - and the fact it was instrumental except for wordless vocals from singer/guitarist Sarah Peacock, lying low in the mix and treated as another instrument.
At the time of it's release, the album was a stark departure from the guitar-based alternative music that dominated that period. It was the gateway drug to Autechre, Squarepusher and others how embraced electronic music without feeling like they had to make music for a rave. The album was highly influential and shook musicians much in the way the My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless" did, sounding as if it had been made in a different universe. The songs on the album are all instrumental, save for the inclusion of band-member Sarah Peacock's wordless vocals on tracks such as "Industrious" and "Charlotte's Mouth."
Founding member and guitarist Mark Clifford recently discussed how the sound of the record was emblematic of the time.
"Quique was very much a product of its time in terms of who we were as people, the social world we inhabited and the technology available to us. I think the album was very much restricted by the relatively primitive technology we were using by today's standards, but that very restriction is I think partly what gives it its flavour."
Critics struggled to define the album, while heaping accolades upon it. "Shoegaze was one of a number of terms applied to us when Quique was first issued. Shoegaze, Dub, IDM, Electronica, Drone...the list went on," said Clifford. "It was quite amusing to us at first because we felt like journalists were scrambling to find a box to put us in. It seemed like a strange game. But after a while I think it became a minor irritation because we weren't trying to fit into any one of their scenes and it felt a little like we were almost having convention thrust upon us when that was the very thing we were reacting against."
The decision to release the record via British label Too Pure-who also discovered Stereolab and PJ Harvey-was a risky venture that was justified because of the label's support for the band. "They were a very creative and forward-looking label but at the same time resources were tight for them and we absolutely knew that when we agreed to record for them," said Mark. "That kind of label respect for the artist was, I think rare then and is most likely rare now. We were fortunate then, just as we are with Warp today, a label that shows the same kind of belief in and respect for its artists."
Composed mainly of soft, shimmering layers of very short (one- or two-beat) samples and delay loops, many of the tracks call to mind the feel of minimalist composers such as Philip Glass or Terry Riley (the latter's masterstroke, In C, specifically) only propelled by dub-informed, ambient drum machine rhythms reminiscent of early Aphex Twin. As ground-breaking as My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless", it influenced a generation of electronic and alternative artists.
As a Pitchfork review accurately assessed, "You'll hear the beginnings of a still-thriving genre that remains slippery and unnamed, purely electronic music with a strange, tangy rock aftertaste."
Releasing the album on vinyl- including a limited number on blue vinyl- embraces the continuing resurgence of that format and was embraced by the band. "I'm happy that vinyl has not died the death that many believed it perhaps might. I'm happy that the vinyl that is being produced today is mostly of a very high quality because when looking back to the 'glory days' of vinyl from my point of view, that wasn't always the case," added Clifford.
After leaving Too Pure to join Warp in early 1994, the band would delve into darker waters with sparse albums like Succour and CH-VOX, but on Quique, Seefeel is at their most ornate. They squint by staring into the geometric refractions of light and record the results.
To read the entire interview with Seefeel, visit The Dumbing of America.