See? Not really…but then again

SEE? is a “spontaneous” supergroup featuring bassist Jon Ehlers (Bangladeafy, Pseudo/Sentai), guitarist Brandon Seabrook (Seabrook Power Plant, Needle Driver, Die Trommel Fatale), and drummer/vocalist/producer Timo Ellis (Netherlands, Cibo Matto, ex-Spacehog, Joan as Police Woman), with additional keyboards by Stuart Popejoy (Bassoon, Sugarlife).

Their end of 2016 release “Lighteninging On Your Thames” is a tangled mass of contradictory elements which comes across as a sort of heavy metal version of The Residents. It leaves me feeling somewhat confused about whether I like it or not. Which I guess can be a good thing these days. Challenge the old brain cells and all that.

The six track, just under 30 minute release is described gnomically by the promotion people as a combination of “synthtwang, djentpop, progwank, and manglemetal”, if I had the time and inclination I’d look some of those categories up and, no doubt, disappear up several genre corridors I probably don’t want to go up. It’s encoded as Experimental/ Progressive/ Avant Metal on the MP3s which is probably an easier thing to absorb if you want to understand what genre it is.

It reminds me of Last Exit at their most extreme in places, and by the same token a little bit like Tribal Tech in terms of technique and precision. I’d probably not want to listen to it again, as I think once is enough, but it’s entertaining and diverting enough and brings a smile to the face at several points in the listening experience. However it probably pretends to be more subversive than it actually is and you get a feeling, at the end of the day,  that it’s a bunch of musicians having far too much fun in the studio.

The numbering of the tracks as SEE 1 through to 6 rather than give them distinct titles, apes the tendency to do that sort of thing on avant jazz albums from the likes of Evan Parker and Supersilent. Am I supposed to take this seriously and listen to this more than once or just absorb it for what it is, i.e. studio based improv,  and move on to the next album in the pile? The thing that slightly irritates is that he  album title displays that sort of 17 year old grammar school muso “lets be obscure for the sake of it” mentality that used to annoy me so much 45 years ago, Don Van Vliet got away with it because he was wired that way and he had some “art” in his soul, this is the polar opposite with technique and studio flummery acting as proxy for anything really ground breaking. I liked it while I was listening to it but I’m not disposed towards pressing replay. Having said that the irony is that if I did listen again I’d probably start to find some things I actually like a lot. It’s a dilemma!



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