Release Date: Mar 17, 2009
Record label: Loaf
Genre(s): Indie, Electronic
With members from Broadcast and the criminally neglected Plone, Seeland could be considered a supergroup from Birmingham, England's early 2000s "retro-futurist" electronic pop scene. The songs on their debut album, Tomorrow Today, certainly contain shades of their previous projects' sounds: "Colour Dream"'s whooshing and whirring is as sweetly strange and soothing as anything on Plone's For Beginner Piano, and "Pretty Bird" has more than a little of that band's nursery rhyme innocence; "Call the Incredible," with its trippy serenity, could easily pass for a Broadcast song. Like their work with their previous bands, Billy Bainbridge and Tim Felton are experts at crafting detailed sounds that are a joy to marvel at as they flutter, overlap, and collide, such as "Goodbye"'s rippling synths and rattling percussion and "5 A.
The hauntology micro genre, which has been enthused about by bloggers such as Simon Reynolds, K-Punk and Woebot, is principally based around a handful of retro-futurist records made in England. The music of Burial, ostensibly a dubstep artist, bears some of the hallmarks of this genre, although Ghost Box and Mordant Music are better places to start for the uninitiated. The latter has even released a track called “The Hauntological Song.
Whatever else they have going for them, Seeland have an impeccable pedigree. Named after one of Neu!’s best songs and packing an album cover the BBC might have made in the ‘70s, Tim Felton and Billy Bainbridge (formerly of Broadcast and Plone, respectively) have the bona fides and references to ensure they at least stick out from anyone else making gently retro, gauzy synth pop. Seeland may lack the bouncily abstract feel of Plone and the weird kick of Broadcast (the band that made the world safe for Ghost Box, for better or worse), but as the opening “Burning Pages” makes clear, they’ve got a firm grip on the kind of soft, smooth propulsion it’s so easy to achieve with synthesizers, and know their way around a chorus to boot.
Tim Felton and Billy Bainbridge released their first single as Seeland way back in 2005 on the Duophonic Super 45s mini-label, an imprint known for housing groups with functional-sounding names that fetishized the mundanity of music technology: Stereolab, Felton's band Broadcast, Imitation Electric Piano, Arcwelder. Even the name of Bainbridge's own cultishly admired former group Plone sounded onomatopoeic, like a reference tone seeping out of a 60s-era electronics workshop. The title of the duo's long-simmering first LP, Tomorrow Today, signals the same sort of retro-futurism, but they're pulling from a slightly different palette.