Album review: Seekae ‘The Worry’

After two years in the studio, Sydney electronic trio Seekae have emerged with a new kind of album. It is an album of contrasts – twisted instrumental layers mixing unexpected combinations of sound, contrasts between tracks that bound and tracks that blur, and most notably, a huge contrast between “The Worry” and the albums that came before it. Like the niggling feeling it is named after, it is filled with insidious undertones that build and override, taking control of your ear drums. Unlike “The Sounds of Trees Falling on People” and “+Dome”, “The Worry” shifts away from lithe, bouncy instrumentals to vocal laden sticky electronica, drifting into new territory. Seekae have added fresh layers of groove and the smooth voice of Alex Cameron to create organized madness in their distinctive ambient and skittery style.

The group first came together in 2006 after a chance reunion and, after two years of bedroom-production and experimentation, released their first LP “The Sounds of Trees Falling on People”. For their next album, Seekae determined to write without computers and now they continue to push themselves by paring back the instrumentals to “not overcrowd the mid-range where the vocal would usually lie, and not put in too many attention grabbing melodies so that the vocal would be able to fulfil that purpose.” While bandmate John Hassell said “vocals just came into it the way any new instrument would,” this introduction has had a profound impact on the overall Seekae sound and earmarks the group yet again as one that is continually pushing and experimenting to create rather than copy.

Starting with a vocal sample that slides into accordion style blends, “The Worry” establishes its divergence on the first listen. Another strips, skips and slicks its way in a mesmerizing fashion, starting soft and slow and working its way up to become my favourite from the album. This track highlights Alex Cameron’s velvety voice as it is interwoven seamlessly with Seekae’s signature production. Synth crescendos come to a crash as we are thrown into Hands, a blindsiding deep murmur that molds equal parts dark and light. At times clattery, always atmospheric, the sound is almost alpine in its sparseness.

Seekae like to play with us, using instinctual drifts in rhythm and riffs and sudden cutaways to a new sound. You’ll catch yourself asking, “Hey, was that a jazz flute? Is he singing about porn? And where did that brass section come from?” Test and Recognise, the first single from the album, is a melting pot of influence with sirens and synth building a mix of percussive layers. Just when it the jarring, off beat tension is at snapping point, a new layer brings harmony to the track. It is a very satisfying exercise in jaw setting and breath releasing. Boys exploits Cameron’s voice to its fullest extent, getting sexy with only a simple beat and synth line accompanying. As the album winds down we fall into the hypnotic skipping loop of Monster, sweet vocal harmonies contrasted with sudden layering of horns and synth rhythm. Tais gives the album its soulful, hungry finality and we are left ponderous and adrift, contemplating Seekae’s surging sound meld.

“The Worry” is a different type of late-night electronic album, one that would never let you sleep and yet pulls you into its depths with inescapable hypnotism. A slow, graceful swan dive into uncharted waters, “The Worry” is an exciting new sound for Seekae.

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