Yet to come across Seekae? More fool you. The Sydney trio have been putting out some of the most interesting electronic music currently occupying the genre since their 2008 debut The Sounds of Trees Falling on People. They’re part of the formidable Future Classics banner and count Mount Kimbie as one of their most ardent fans. Last month, they popped up with new track Turbine Blue, their first release since 2014. As a piece of music, it sums up everything that they’re about: beautiful, strung-out electronica that’s flying the flag for the ambient movement. Think Caribou meets Four Tet; the quaint meeting the quirky and learning how to slow dance.
John Hassell, one third of Seekae, is currently based in London. “We’re all kind of spread across the world,” he tells me, over the phone. “I’m in London, Alex is in the US doing a solo tour and George is in Sydney – he’s doing a lot of producing and mixing, things like that. We’re seemingly disconnected but in reality we’re getting a lot of things ready for next year – a lot of new tracks and hopefully a new release. We are working, we’re just spread.”
Seekae’s music is for those who prefer the electronic to come with a splash of technicolour. “The safest way to encompass what we do is to call it electronic music,” Hassell says. “Ultimately, I guess it is dance music, but then again, we started strongly influenced by IDM and warp – there was hip-hop there as well.” Clearly, it’s difficult to reduce what the trio do to one, singular label. In a genre that is often accused of being artificial and empty, Seekae’s sound remains very much alive. Nobody could accuse it of being devoid of feeling.
People’s interpretation of what electronic and dance music is often what they hear on the radio. If you’re listening to BBC Radio 1 and hearing EDM then I completely agree with people thinking it’s artificial. It’s soulless – but that’s just my opinion.”
“If someone was to say to me ‘what are you views on John Milton?’, I’d say ‘oh, he wrote Paradise Lost’ – and that’d literally be the extent of what I know. So, you just have to be relative to the situation. I sympathise with that view, but you have to delve a little deeper into things.”
Hassell and co. share a label with Flume and Nick Murphy, both of whom are similarly committed to giving the constructed and man-made a better reputation within the cynical spheres. They’re all artists who embrace the technology on which their sounds depend, but aren’t reduced by it, either.
“We started using this technology without any idea how it really works. It was experimenting, with a level of naivety. Ultimately, the songs you try and make stick subconsciously to a pop-song kind of structure. It puts colour into it. It didn’t start for us a conscious effort, but it felt right – we have the electronic, but it comes with soul and colour. It’s not just a 3AM Berlin dance floor banger.”
“What’s so good about electronic music is that the only association I have with the word is that it allows for almost anything – you know? I can hear something that’s 90% classical but contains electronic elements and automatically it’ll go into the electronic category. The tools with which you use to make the music are electronic, therefore it’s electronic music. You’re just talking about the context in which music is being made – it’s so broad and encompasses so many things. Nowadays, for us, anything we want to write or take on, it’s just the means by which we make that. And that’s it.”
So, with that in mind: what do you label Seekae as? Well, that’s the thing – you don’t, really. The Australian collective put together sounds that tend to transcend genre boundaries. For them, it’s about experimentation and the infinite possibility that comes with it. They aren’t thinking about anything too much – and that’s probably why their music sits alone in its own cognitive ecosystem. They’re an exciting group of thinkers, and an even more exciting group of doers. If they aren’t already on your radar, then they should be.
“A cult following? I think that’s just a really polite way of saying you have a small to medium-sized fan-base,” laughs Hassell.
“But we’ve banked up all of these ideas that will all just eventually come out. It’s going to be interesting. We’re all essentially computer nerds sending each other music over the internet. Essentially, we just want to write new music.”
Words by Niall Flynn